And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have life. (John 3:14-15)
Outside John 3, the theme of the lifting up of the Son of Man is mentioned three more times:
- John 8:28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am
- John 12:32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
- John 12:34 … How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?”
In John 8:28 the theme of the lifting up of the Son of Man is combined with one of the I AM sayings of Jesus. I AM is the name that God reveals to Moses in the burning bush incident. It is a name that Jesus applies to himself while at the same time making it more specific: I AM the Bread of Life, I AM the Good Shepherd, I AM the Door of the Sheepfold, I Am the Resurrection and the Life. I AM was for the people of the Exodus the revelation of the God who will be with them, for them and on their side. Isaiah’s coining the label “Immanu-el” God with us, is the same designation but from a third person perspective.
In John 12:32, just when Jesus realized that his Hour has come (signalled as it was by the coming of the Greeks — the other sheepfold), he tells the Jews that He will draw all men to Himself when He has been lifted up. The Jews misunderstand the saying, not knowing what “Son of Man” meant (12:34). It is John who tells us the meaning of the statement: it referred to the death of Jesus (12:33).
In John 3:14, the lifting up of the Son of Man is in parallel with the statement about God’s love for men and identified with His act of giving His only begotten Son to men so that whoever believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life. In chapter 3, however, the lifting up is not only put into relationship with the lifting up of Jesus on the wood of the cross (the mention of Moses’ bronze serpent on a pole) but also to His ascension (3:13). In other words, the Death and Glorification of Jesus will be the sign by which God makes known His love for mankind.
St. Paul talks about dying and rising with Christ, just as Jesus spoke about renouncing oneself, taking up the Cross and following Him. It is by living out the Paschal Mystery that the baptized makes his own the salvation won by Christ by His Death and Resurrection. In the daily living out of the Paschal Mystery, I die to sin from day to day in such a way that when I finally breath my last on this earth, it would be the climax of a life that I have given to God from day to day.
I adore you O Christ and I praise you because by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.