When I am lifted up
"Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
March 16, 2018, Words By: Lina Thompson, Image By: Jesus on the Cross-Jesus Mafa
I had a great conversation with a young man recently who was going to be baptized. I asked him what he thought about God and what he believes God thinks about him.
His answer was so authentic.
“Well, I know God is there in my life. And I feel him. But if I’m honest, sometimes I forget to notice. Sometimes, it slips my mind. I want to get better at remembering and seeing. I want to notice more.”
Even though he forgets to notice, he wishes to see Jesus.
This passage begins much the same way. Some of the Greeks that were also worshiping at the festival approached Phillip and made this request: “We wish to see Jesus.”
After several verses of dense theology about life, death and following in his footsteps, this is what Jesus says: “When I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself.” In other words, ALL people will see Jesus.
For someone who has spent most of her adult life trying to help people see Jesus, it is striking, and comforting, to see his desire to be “seen” by all. This God wants to know all and be known by all.
What may be even more interesting than the desire to know and be known is the manner in which it happens. The language of “lifted up” hints at the cross to which the Messiah was nailed. It is gruesome. It is violent. It is shameful. It is humiliating.
Yet somehow, this is the act that will draw all people to Jesus; the inclusivity of this statement is remarkable! In a world, and a church, that talks desperately about unity, perhaps we’ve missed the one thing that can actually get us there: all people, drawn to Christ crucified. This Broken Body draws to itself a broken humanity.
God has identified God’s self with the “least” of humanity in a once-and-for-all-time act of solidarity. He’s aligned himself with the least of “we”—the broken and shame-filled parts of our communities AND the least of “I”—the broken and shame-filled parts of our own lives.
All people will be drawn to Christ as He is lifted up on the cross. If there is one thing common to humanity, regardless of our titles, our paychecks, our gender, our ethnicity or our education, it is this—we suffer.
My mother was a wise woman. Whenever times were hard for her or for our family, she would always say, “Dis is da life. We all suffer different, but we all suffer the same.“ I’m forever grateful for that bit of theology that came from my mother. She saw Jesus lifted up. And it drew her.
This is probably the one thing that has any kind of real potential for drawing us not just to Christ, but perhaps even more so, drawing us to one another. Hopefully we can see Christ as he is lifted up. Like my young friend said, “I want to notice Jesus more.” So do I. Don’t we all.