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Lift up the Son of Man


By using the words “lift up,” Jesus was referring to the prophetic action of Moses lifting a bronze serpent on a pole in the desert according to God’s direction (Num 21:9). God spared the snake- bitten sinners of the Old Testament from death, provided they looked up at the bronze serpent as a mark of their faith in God’s word. So also, God would save from the bite of the devil (serpent), those who believe in the Son of God lifted on the cross. Jesus had to fulfil this prophetic action and was predicting to his opponents how he was going to accomplish his mission.

Jesus had foretold his crucifixion and its relationship with the lifting of the bronze serpent in his discussion with Nicodemus. Jesus told him, “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn 14-15). Indeed, just as the Israelites in the desert regained earthly life by looking at the mounted bronze serpent, those who look at the crucified Saviour with faith will regain eternal life.

The Greek word for “lifted” means “highly exalted”. John gives importance to the exaltation of Jesus. So lifted also implied the glorification of Jesus that followed his crucifixion. They were his resurrection, ascension, and sitting at God’s right hand.

Someone had to mount Jesus on the cross. And Jesus was predicting who would do that. If the Jewish adversaries were not spiritually blind, they would have recognized him as the Son of God and would not have crucified him. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:7-8, “We speak God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden, which God predetermined before the ages for our glory, and which none of the rulers of this age knew; for if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

Jesus had told his disciples, “When I am lifted up from the Earth, I shall draw everyone to myself” (Jn 12:32). That happened soon after his crucifixion. “The centurion and the soldiers who guarded Jesus were greatly terrified when they observed the earthquake and all that had happened, and said, ‘Truly, this man was the Son of God’” (Mt 27:54). “And all the people who had gathered to watch the spectacle, as soon as they saw what had happened, went home beating their breasts” (Lk 23:48). On the day of Pentecost, after Saint Peter’s speech, “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day” (Acts 2:41). More Jews believed in Jesus later. “And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). “But many of those who heard the word came to believe and (the) number of men grew to [about] five thousand” (Acts 4:4). “The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). Thus, the Jews who insisted that Pilate crucify Jesus and release Barabbas realized after his resurrection and ascension that he was indeed the Messiah.

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