Although I continue to be inspired by the pages I’m scanning of the Sweet/Viola book Jesus Manifesto, I do find periodic non sequiturs and unjustified assumptions. For example, their introductory mention of John 12:32.
John 12:32 is a “verse” I’ve known for most of my teen-to-adult life. It says, roughly, “When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself.” In order to understand more fully this “verse” in its context, one might need to take into consideration such things as
- John’s life
- his association with Jesus
- the date of authorship
- other historically contextual matters
- literarily contextual matters such as
- John’s purpose in writing his gospel
- symbolism and themes of the gospel (logos? light? truth? etc.)
But even a cursory reading of 12:32 and immediate context (I won’t begin to deal here with any deeper contextual questions, analysis of John’s literary themes, or the like) shows clearly that “when I am lifted up” means when I am crucified.
There’s this gospel song titled “Lift Him Up.” My parents used to sing it with groups of close friends, and we sang it at church a few times. The first stanza queries,
How to reach the masses—men of ev’ry birth?
For an answer Jesus gave a key:
And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”
Fair enough. Simple enough. And profundity aplenty.
But the chorus repeatedly invites the singer/hearer to “Lift Him up! Lift the precious Savior up!” And thereby, for decades, congregants have run afoul of scripture. John 12:32 is not about conceptually “lifting” the notion of Jesus and holding it/Him high, i.e., “exalting the Christ,” for all to see! Exalting Jesus, calling attention to His lordship, etc., are generally good ideas, in my opinion, but John 12:32 has nothing directly to do with them.
Doesn’t it strike you as laughable that this song essentially has Christian congregations shouting “crucify Him!” because John 12:32 was treated as an inkblot to be “interpreted” subjectively, instead of understanding “lift Him up” in context?