“Lifted Up”

GOSPEL | JOHN 12:27-36

27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say — ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.  28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”  29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”  30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.  31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.  32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”  33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.  34 The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?”  35 Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going.  36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.

“When I am lifted up from the earth, [I] will draw all people to myself.” (v.32)

This is a backwards, upside-down, paradoxical, ironic week. Jesus enters “triumphantly” and leaves dead, which is the real victory. Jesus clears out the temple, then says he’ll tear it down and build it again, and at the end, the curtain is torn and his body is pierced and buried. Jesus prays to the Father, “Father, glorify your name” (v.28), and on Friday, the Jews and the Romans lift him up, but on a cross — a public, humiliating, cursed execution.

candle banner

I’ve heard this story 24+ times. I know it well. I know how this ends (and it’s the happiest ending ever!); but for now, I have to sit and watch all of my expectations be contradicted, blockaded, and ruined. My expectations for a political king, for national security, for my own position of power as I follow this strong leader, are successively dashed as Jesus gets closer and closer to the cross.

And Christ is lifted up on Friday. We hear of it today, and (the well-educated) part of me knows this is true, knows this is good news, knows to be grateful; the part of me that stands in the crowd, though, protests: “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” (v.34). Jesus Christ doesn’t even acknowledge these protests.

Christ Candle

Jesus isn’t interested in who we think he is. Jesus knows who he is, what his purpose is, and where his purpose is leading him. Instead of responding or correcting or rebuking, he pleads with us:

“The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light” (vv.35-36).

Lord, 

Guide us in your light this week.

As dark, and wicked, and dangerous, and hopeless

as Thursday’s Supper, Friday’s Execution, or Saturday’s Silence become,

please don’t abandon us in the darkness. 

Send your Spirit to keep us company,

and to sustain us until Easter’s Glory. 

Lead on, Lord,

and be patient with my reluctance.

But do lead on.

In Your Name,

Amen.

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