(This article is reworked from a sermon which I preached on Good Friday in the Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott. The Sermon can be watched online at the YouTube account of the church. The sermon begins at 17:15 minutes.)
When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He. (John 8:28)
This is not the first time that we read these words in the gospel of John. In John 3:14 the Lord Jesus said in His conversation with Nicodemus, (just before He spoke the words in John 3:16 which have become so famous): And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
And in John 12:31-33 we read again: Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” This He said, signifying by what death He would die.
These words about the Son of Man lifted up form one of the key terms in the gospel of John. From the context we understand them to mean that the Son of Man is crucified. But these words also have the notion of ‘exalted’. His crucifixion leads to His exaltation.
Father of Lies
If we look at the context of these words in chapter 8, we see that the Lord speaks about the devil as father of lies! Note how forceful Jesus is in rejecting the Pharisees’ teaching as lies from the devil. They have the devil as Father. The Lord had patience with many sinners, but not with the lie! He is very harsh with the lies of the Pharisees: this is from the devil! The devil is the father of lies: his lies lead to death, eternal death. See Gen. 3. From the beginning, it was about the battle between truth and lie: and with that, it was about life or death!
So it is also now: his lies will lead to the eternal death of Son of Man, Jesus. And the Jews will have part in it, because the Lord says to them that they will lift Him up. But then they will notice that He is not only Son of Man, but also Son of God. Then He defeats eternal death and Satan, and obtains the victory! Then they shall know that ‘I am He’.
Son of God
The Lord refers here to what He said before. See vs. 23 : “I am from above”. And vs. 25: “Who are You?” Vs. 26: “Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning.” They don’t want to see it now and believe it, that Jesus is the Son of God who came from above, but when they will have lifted up the Son of Man, then He will show Himself to be the Son of God, by His death and His resurrection! Now the father of lies still has the power to corrupt the gospel. Christ preached the gospel but the Jews resisted it, denied it. Once Satan is defeated, his power will be limited and then the truth will be revealed, and the father of lies exposed. The Death of Jesus Christ was necessary in the battle between truth and lie, light and darkness, life and death.
Then they will see, not only that ‘I am He’, but also ‘that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.’ Before in the gospel of John we could read that there is a strong unity between the Father and the Son! See 5:19. The Lord Jesus Christ does not want to do anything without His Father. He cannot even do anything that the Father didn’t first show Him. With that in mind, we begin to understand a little bit of His suffering, when He cried out on the cross, ‘My God, Why have You forsaken Me?’ That was the deepest part of His suffering! Jesus’ life on earth must have been torture for Him, seeing and hearing all the lies of Satan, especially about Him. The unwillingness of His own people to believe. He came from the Father of truth, He is the Word of truth, He came to testify to the truth. In Him is no sin, no unfaithfulness. While coming from the Father, living in the deepest relationship of love between the Father and Him, He now came to suffer the power of the lie!
He honoured the Father, and waited for the Father’s time to deal with the father of lies. It was not His time yet. But in 12:31 His time had come. The time of His being lifted up: the crucifixion, but then thereafter also His glorification. Paul writes about that in Philippians 2 : ‘And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.’ And in Hebrews 12 we read: ‘looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.‘
That is now the comfort which we have: in our deepest suffering, we can wait for the Lord! He will lift you up at His time. See James 4:10 : ‘Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.’
Those who do not humble themselves, will be humiliated by God. Those who do humble themselves in the sight of the Lord, He will lift up! He Himself had suffered countless insults, even crucifixion. He knows what it is. But He remained faithful to His Father and waited for the time the Father had set. He honoured God, His Father by depending on Him, in His deepest anguish, even when He felt forsaken by God! God rewarded Him by raising Him from the dead, and now He is seated at God’s right hand, God the Father.
Abide in God’s Word
‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.‘
In Genesis 3 it was about the truth or the lie. What did Adam and Eve believe: the truth from God or the lie from Satan? And the answer to that question was about life and death. Here again, the Lord Jesus teaches that listening to Him and understanding Him will bring life. But not understanding Him brings death.
John 8: 43 : ‘Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.‘
Isaiah prophesied about God’s own people, as quoted by the Lord in Matthew 13:
And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; 15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’
But then the Lord Jesus ‘said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.‘ (John 8:31-32). God’s Word brings freedom: abide in the Word of truth: Christ’s word! Then they shall know the truth! Christ is God’s Word, Who became flesh. The Word of God, Christ, was lifted up by the Pharisees and Sadducees, in the sense that they crucified Him. But in John 3:14 the Lord already mentioned Moses who lifted up the serpent in the desert. Like that the Son will be lifted up, on the cross.
Those who fix their eyes on Him Who has been lifted up, they will have life, just like those in the desert who looked at the bronze serpent on the pole and lived, so also those who see the Lord on the cross and look on Him with the eyes of faith, they shall live.
God’s Word shows us the truth, also on this earth in this life. Wisdom from God’s Word gives us understanding, enables us to see through many of the lies in this world!
Grow in knowledge of God’s Word and you will understand and see the work of the devil! Then hope in God and He will reveal the truth. He will set you free!