Summary: The crowds were looking for a Christ who would "remain" and lead them into glorious earthly kingdom, but Jesus was talking about being "lifted up" and not being with them forever. The Jesus they wanted wasn't the Jesus they were getting.
I’m told these were actual answers that children gave in Sunday School: “Noah’s wife was called Joan of Ark.” “The epistles were the wives of the apostles.” “Moses got the 10 Commandments at Mt. Cyanide.” “King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 porcupines.” “The men who followed the Lord were called the 12 decibels.”
And then there's my personal favorite: “Lot’s wife was a pillar of salt by day and a ball of fire by night.”
You’d expect kids to mangle Bible stories once in a while, and it’s kinda funny when they do it. But when adults mangle the Bible… that’s usually not so funny. When adults distort Scripture its often because they don’t agree with what they’re reading.
Someone once said: “People don’t reject the Bible because it contradicts itself. They reject the Bible because it contradicts them.” Folks like that might KNOW the Bible, but they just don’t agree with it. And so they can end up NOT having their theological ducks in a row.
And that’s what’s happening in our story today. Jesus told the crowds that “when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32) And the people understood Jesus to be saying He’s not going to be with them long. He’s going to be “lifted up from the earth” In fact, Jesus confirmed that by saying “The light is among you for a little while longer....” John 12:35
Now the crowds heard this and they knew just enough Scripture to say “Hey, wait a minute! That doesn’t sound right! We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?" John 12:34
Well, were they right? Was the Christ supposed to REMAIN forever? (PAUSE) Well … yeah. The Old Testament spoke of the Messiah this way: “… I have sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. HIS SEED SHALL ENDURE FOREVER, and his throne as the sun before me. Psalm 89:35-36
Isaiah 9:7 (speaking of the Messiah) “Of the increase of his government and peace THERE SHALL BE NO END, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even FOREVER…”
Ezekiel 37:25 And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant … for ever: and my servant David (codeword for the Messiah) shall be THEIR PRINCE FOREVER.”
FOREVER!!!! The Messiah would endure forever. He would be a prince forever, His kingdom would last … forever. And that’s exactly what Jesus had come to do. He and His kingdom WERE going to last forever… just not quite the way the Jews had planned.
They were looking for a King who would throw off the bonds of Rome and lead them to be a powerful nation that rivaled the days of Solomon. But in order to do that - Jesus had to stick around. But that wasn’t the plan. The Messiah that God sent wasn’t the Messiah that they wanted. Jesus didn’t fit into the box they’d built for Him. And that’s a problem for a lot of people. The Jesus folks get isn’t always the Jesus they want.
And a lot of times it has to do with this statement by Jesus: “’when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” John 12:32-33
The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ … really upsets a lot of people. It doesn’t fit into their thinking. For the Jews (for example) the idea that the Messiah would die was unthinkable. And that was true not only back in the days of Jesus. It’s still true (because the Jews still don’t think Messiah has come). But that had been God’s plan from the beginning.
ILLUS: For example, one of the most powerful prophecies about Jesus is in Isaiah 53. “Surely he (the Messiah) has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5). Even the Jews recognize this prophecy had all the marks of being about the Messiah. But it troubles them that it says He would have to suffer and die for our sins.
ILLUS: Man named Marc Axelrod told of picking up a Jewish Study Bible at a bookstore. It was probably the 1st time he’d ever seen a Jewish Study Bible. The 1st thing that went through his mind was “I wonder what they have to say about Isaiah 53.” So he thumbed through the pages, and he found the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. And the notes at the bottom said, “This is a very difficult passage.” To this day, the Jews struggle with the idea that Isaiah 53 describes the Messiah who would suffer and die for our sins.