Summary: Jesus said that if He was lifted up, he would draw all men unto Him. "Lifted up" has a double meaning. Here it means being lifted up on a cross
Lifted Up on High
Last week we saw the fateful decision of the Jewish leaders to accept Caesar and reject Jesus. This was in effect the end of the Jewish nation. No longer do the physical descendants of Abraham through Jacob have any exclusive privilege with God. The way was being prepared for a new understanding of God’s people. As we remember in John 3:16, God was opening the doors to anyone and everyone who believes in His Son Jesus Christ. These are the true children of the promise, the children of Abraham.
It is interesting to note the Roman custom of adoption here. When a man adopted a son, the natural father would present him to the adoptive father three times. After each of the first two presentations, the son was returned to the natural father. But when he was presented and accepted the third time, he was for ever adopted into the new family. The old family had no further claim, and the adopted son had privilege even the natural sons of the adoptive father did not have. The adopted son could not be disinherited.
Whereas we must be careful not to bind God to human customs and laws, it is interesting to note that Paul alludes in both Romans and Galatians that we have received this adoption (Romans 8:16; Galatians 4:5). This is a privilege God has bestowed upon us by grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus. To those who believe, the gates of the Kingdom of God are open wide.
In an ironic way, the Jewish state ended with a threefold rejection of Jesus. Three times Pilate had presented Jesus to them as King of the Jews. Three times they had rejected him. The fact it happened three times indicates that their rejection was willful and complete. They had become un-adopted. Or in another sense, they were adopted by Caesar. They were now the children of Rome instead of God. The Devil was their new father.
A relationship of almost two thousand years had come to an end. It is indeed sad that a nation of people who had been given so much more than all of the other nations would come to sad end. But we must also remember that the “whosoever will” applies to people of Israelite descent as well as to the Gentile nations. But now the ground was level and fair. It was to be an election of grace rather than race.
Exposition of the Text
John 19:16. We covered this verse last week. Pilate turned Jesus over to their will that He might be crucified. The verb “handed over” (Greek ðáñáäßäùìé) is the same verb which describes Judas’ action in betraying Jesus to the Jewish authorities as well as the Jewish authorities turning over Jesus to Pilate. Now in a sense, Pilate has to be seen as betraying Jesus to the will of the Jewish people. The Governor was responsible as a patron to the people he governed to enforce the law fairly. It was his responsibility by the Roman law he knew and the Law of God which he did not know to protect the innocent from false prosecution. Three times he had rendered a not guilty verdict. And yet, he allowed Jesus to be turned over to be crucified. And if we wanted to be honest about it, we all have betrayed Jesus to the cross because of our sin, the Jewish leaders and the crowd stood for all the Jews, and Pilate for all the Gentiles. None of our hands would be clean from the shedding of Jesus blood were it not that it is by the supreme act of God’s grace that this very betrayal would become the basis of our salvation. He did not go to the cross to put us on a guilt trip but to free us from our guilt.
It must be remembered that faith in Jesus and repentance toward God is necessary for our being set free. This is not a carte blanche acquittal for us. It is for the “whosoever will” not just the “whosoever.” Those who reject Jesus after the cross are even more guilty than either the Jewish leaders and people, or Pilate. Those who reject the gospel are in the worst danger of all. They have no excuse for sin whose excuse is not Jesus death for our sin. The Gospel then is the message of eternal life and reward to those who believe and eternal death and punishment to those who reject. The Bible presents no middle ground. It is win all or lose all.
It says they took Jesus. But we must remember that He went willingly.
John 19:17. The Gospel of John does not mention Jesus’ fainting under the weight of the cross. This may have to do with the people to whom John was writing the Gospel. Perhaps some of them saw Jesus as the unfortunate victim of the anger of men and religious intolerance, much as people today think. In fact even in times of human weakness, Jesus is actually in complete control of the situation. We saw this at the woman at the well and at Jesus appearance before Pilate. Even in the moment of supreme human weakness where He cries “I’m thirsty! (John 19:28), it was said that he did this to fulfill Scripture. John does not deny that Jesus is fully human. After all, it is John who makes the powerful declaration that “The Word was made flesh” (John 1:14). But John wants us to know that Jesus is more than a mere man. He is God’s Son.