So here we are back in the 3rd Chapter of the Johns open letter to believers in Christ and it is recorded that Jesus said the following: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up (exalted),that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” Now how are we to understand this verse, does it follow that Jesus here is talking about his death on a cross?
Remember now Jesus is to talking to Nicodemus about the Nation Israel and it’s people, it is clear from many other places in the gospels that the ministry of Jesus was not to the Gentiles. I am pretty sure at this point in his ministry Jesus is aware that he will be rejected by the leadership as the Messiah of Israel. Lets be clear here Death on a Cross would not prove to the religious authorities that Jesus was the Messiah of the Jewish Prophets. Nor would death on a cross prove to the people Jesus Christ was the exalted of God, which is what the phrase “Lifted up” means in the Greek.
Lets pause here and ask a question, why is it that the church theology & doctrine for thousands of years sees the cross in this statement of Jesus to Nicodemus? The answer is almost self evident, because the church has built it’s salvation dogma around the cross and the idea of your guilt and the blood sacrifice. What if however Jesus is looking past the cross which is far more likely and to the Resurrection. Because lets be honest anybody can die for love as Jesus taught, but raising from the dead three days later and defeating the whole sin/death paradigm is another story altogether. Remember when Paul is teaching the Corinthians and he says “if the Resurrection from the Dead is a myth then we above all people are most miserable”
Do you see this is not to deny the cross but rather to put it in it’s proper place, there is no power in the cross alone. The only power in the cross is the resurrection because all men in Adam die. Jesus was the Last Adam and his power is not demonstrated in death but rather in life, or as Paul taught: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.” Therefore looking to the future Paul confidently says: All of Israel shall be saved.”
Now is there a partnership also implied in this section of scripture you bet ya, but if you think This Christ is playing second fiddle to the will of man you haven’t read the story. Do you see we have built many theologies around man’s will, either in the affirmative or the negative giving us all the control, and don’t kid yourself it’s all about control. This will however is not dead as the Calvinists over think nor is it the trump card the Arminians passionately imagine, it is that which you will give freely to love eventually and I recommend now rather than later, it makes for a better life.
Can I tell you a secret though it’s not about you, or as Paul so eloquently says in the letter to the Philippians and with this I will close. Now yes I know I haven’t tied everything up in a nice little Theological bow, but who ever told you that was how this mystery was to be approached in the first place?
Philippians 2:6b Jesus: who, being in very nature of God,did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God (exalted) him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
a recovering Hell Fire & Brimstone preacher