The week of His death, Jesus told a handful of His disciples that the time of judgment had come- and the “ruler of this world” was about to be cast out (John 12:31). You might remember that the first declaration of redemption included a promise of judgment, too (see Exodus 6:6 ESV)-
I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.
Adam and Eve were originally given dominion of Creation but handed it to Satan (see Genesis 1:28, Luke 4:6). After thousands of years of disorder, it was time for things to be set “right.” Judgment was about to happen; the one who took dominion from God’s children was about to be defeated.
After telling the disciples that this time of judgment was upon them, Jesus declared, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all _______ to myself” (John 12:32).
I left the blank intentionally, because there’s no word there in the original Greek sentence. Many modern translations of the Bible supply italicized words to denote this.
Now, I used to think the words in italics in my Bible were the important ones- as if they were being highlighted. After all, that’s one of the methods we use to emphasize something in English.
If you read the textual notes at the beginning of your Bible, though, you'll discover the translation committee is very forthright that they actually italicize words when they add them to the original text in order to make the sentence flow better- as in this case.
So, Jesus actually said, “I will draw all _________ to myself.”
Though it seems strange to us, this was a common speech pattern. Greek speakers didn’t always supply nouns, particularly when everyone already knew what they were discussing. In this context, Jesus was talking about judgment.
The most popular version of the verse, in English, adds the word “men” there. Thus, this verse in your Bible probably reads, “I will draw all men to myself.”
I’ve heard teachers interpret this verse to mean that Jesus was communicating that when we exalt Him, He brings people to Himself naturally. And, yes, that statement may be true. When we declare that great works of Jesus, people are intrigued. They come in close to hear what He’s done for them.
But that's not what this verse says. Even if the concept is true, this verse communicates something else to us entirely.
The context of this verse is that Jesus anticipates and predicts His death on the Cross. John writes plainly that “He said this to show by what kind of death He was going to die” (12:33).
And,in the previous sentence, Jesus speaks about judgment. He said the time has come for judgment to happen (John 12:31). Jesus is telling us that when He dies on the Cross He will also take on every bit of judgment… all on Himself.
“When I am lifted up, I will draw all judgment to myself," He promised.
Your guilt, my guilt… and all of our condemnation… would be on Him.
Or, to say it another way, Jesus took every bit of our judgment and condemnation on Himself 2,000 years ago. Judgment has already happened.
I know. We’ve had it beaten into our heads that God judges the people He’s setting free.
You’ve heard the typical altar call: “Come down front. God is setting you free. If you don't come down, He’s going to pour out His wrath on you.”
(We push this concept so far that we believe humans are innately evil, that when a baby is born, that there's somehow a deficit in the salvation credit-debit balance sheet. The starting point at Creation, however, is not “things are bad,” but— “things are good.”)
Let's look back at the story in Exodus and see what we can learn about redemption. It’s impossible to miss the parallels between the Exodus (the blood of the lamb) and the Cross (the blood of Jesus) once we know to look for them. Not only is the word that’s used the same, redeem, but there are other striking parallels, too.
In fact, I see four similarities between judgment in Exodus and judgment at the Cross:
First, both events involve a lamb as the centerpiece of redemption.
The Israelites were instructed to take a spotless lamb and roast it by spreading the animal apart on a wooden cross (see Exodus 12:3). It was the blood of this Lamb that caused the Angel of Death to pass over their homes.
Centuries later, John the Baptist declared that Jesus is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).
When Judas left their dinner to go betray Jesus, the other eleven disciples thought he had gone to gather the things they needed for “the feast” (John 13:29). This wasn't just any dinner, though. Jesus was celebrating the Passover with His disciples during this time, the same meal Moses observed that night when all of Israel was set free (Matthew 26:17f.). Specifically, the disciples believed he was going to obtain a Passover lamb for them. Tradition says that the lamb would be roasted over an open flame, while spread to a large skewer in the form of a cross.
Don’t miss the connection. Paul writes that Christ is our Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7b). Jesus wasn’t just any sacrificial lamb; He was the Passover lamb. In describing Jesus in this way, Paul provides us with another link between the Exodus story and the Cross.
Second, the hyssop branch played a significant role in both stories. The Israelites took the hyssop branch and spread the blood of the lamb over their doorposts in the shape of a cross (Exodus 12:22). The ancients believed hyssop was a cleansing fragrance that warded off evil spirits and enveloped people with a sense of forgiveness (see also Psalms 51:7).
John tells us that the soldier raised a- get this- hyssop branch to Jesus when He said “I thirst” from the Cross (John 19:29). Of course, this branch would have been stained with blood, too, as soon as it brushed Jesus’ face.
When we read small details like this, we often miss them. But, someone living 2,000 years ago who understood both stories would remember that the hyssop branch was used to spread the blood of the Exodus lamb over the door posts of their home- also in the form of a Cross.
Remember, Passover lambs and hyssop branches were being used all across the countryside that same weekend Jesus died.
Third, both events are avenues of total redemption, and each is received by faith.
In Exodus, our model of redemption, a people who are enslaved are completely delivered in a moment. They go from completely bound to totally free.
The blood of Jesus becomes our vehicle of redemption today. By His blood, a people who are enslaved find themselves completely delivered in a moment. They- we- go from totally bound to totally free.
In other words, Exodus is a prototype, a real story that shows us what we can expect from the Cross and Jesus’ work on our behalf. It’s not just a disconnected, earlier story in the Bible, one that happened a few thousand years before the Cross. Exodus is what happens to each of us, as we awaken to the redemption Jesus offers us. And the story is not primarily about something we obtain when we die; it’s about an ongoing encounter with our Creator in this present life.
Fourth, finally- and this one is huge- the single determining factor in the entire Exodus story was the lamb. Period.
It didn't matter who was in the house- as long as the blood of the lamb marked the doors in the shape of the Cross.
It didn’t matter what they had done that day, how “good” or “bad” they had been- as long as the blood of the lamb marked the doors in the shape of the Cross.
Their socioeconomic status, their race, their education, their health, their calling, their job, and even their sexual orientation (yikes!) were all irrelevant- as long as the blood of the lamb marked the doors in the shape of the Cross.
I know. Some of that data and what it infers may make you a bit uncomfortable. But read the story again and you’ll see that the things we usually make “big deals” aren’t even mentioned. The only thing the Angel of Death looked for was the blood of the Lamb (see Exodus 12:13, 23).
As far as anything else goes… well… nothing else was even mentioned. The single factor related to successful redemption was the sacrifice- not the sacrificer.
The lamb took their death (yeah, really, because without that lamb the firstborn would die). The blood of the lamb facilitated their redemption. And, yes, the lamb took the judgment. All of it.
Remember what Jesus told those disciples?
Now is the time of judgment. And He was taking it all. That now was 2,000 years ago.
This means that judgment has already occurred. And you weren’t the one on trial. Because of the blood, judgment literally passed over you.
By the way, notice that judgment happened and then freedom came. No one walked in freedom until judgment occurred.
This is important…
Sometimes, the Church gets this message backwards. We tell people to clean up, fix up, shape up. We tell them to demonstrate their freedom, prove that they’ve been transformed, and then they can acknowledge that Jesus is Lord.
Then they can become one of us…
That's backwards. People don’t walk in freedom until they’re free.
(That said, since we know judgment has already occurred, we know that you’re now free to be the person you were created to be!)
Redemption isn’t something God gives you as a reward for acting like a free man or woman; redemption is something He grants in order for you to experience freedom. Behavior is the result of redemption- not the cause.
That leads me to something else we need to discuss while we’re talking about judgment and behavior. A lot of people in the church believe it’s Holy Spirit’s job to convict them, that is, judge them and make them feel guilty. Even now, long after Jesus has completed His work, some “church people” argue this!
Well-intended teachers and leaders even pull a Bible verse to prove their point: “When He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8 ESV, emphasis added).
Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola observe,
Some preachers need a travel agent to handle all the guilt trips they put on God’s people. But there is a big difference between putting a guilt trip on Christians and unveiling Christ to them.
When Christ is presented with power, the Spirit of God will undoubtedly convict those who are walking in contradiction to their new nature. But Holy Spirit conviction and man-induced guilt and condemnation are two very different things.
So, let’s talk about what conviction really means. That will help clear this up. After all, if the Holy Spirit convicts, it makes sense that we understand what this convicting is.
Pastor Andrew Farley writes about one of the common usages of the word that gets us tripped up theologically:
Convict means "to find guilty.” Within a judicial system, conviction is followed by sentencing and then punishment. Inside the word conviction is the term we usually reserve for a person who is incarcerated- a convict.
He then asks the question, “So should the verb convict be used to describe interaction between the Holy Spirit and children of God?”
His answer: “Probably not.”
There’s another definition for the word convict, too, one that better communicates what’s happening here. Convict also means “to convince.”
If someone really believes something, they might say, “This is my conviction…”
They're not casting a judgment as to guilt or innocence. They’re saying, “I really believe…”
Some people have a conviction that natural health is better than pharmaceuticals. Others have a conviction that they would actually be dead without drugs; they’re grateful for the prescriptions they have which help them stay alive.
Some moms have a conviction that they should stay home with their children. Others have a conviction that they should go to work and add to the family’s bottom line.
Some parents have a conviction that kids should be spanked. Others have a conviction that kids should simply be redirected.
I’m sure you have a list of convictions- things you believe- that are important to you. If we sat down for ten or fifteen minutes and started talking about them, you may even try to convince- that is, convict- me of the beauty and depth of your position.
People try to convict you every single day. Particularly advertisers. They attempt to persuade you to see things their way. They want to convince you to buy from them.
Rather than convincing you that you are guilty, the Holy Spirit convinces- ahh, let’s just say it, convicts- you that you are righteous. Here's where I get that:
That’s right, the Holy Spirit persuades you about righteousness. He doesn’t do this by giving you a pile of bad things you've done or a checklist of good deeds which you need to do. Rather, the Holy Spirit does this by convincing you- by convicting you- that you are free to be who you were created to be.
Looking back at the Cross, Paul writes that Jesus actually “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame” (Colossians 2:15).
In other words, at the Cross, Jesus…
Because of this, then Enemy is now…
And, yes, your qualifications are irrelevant. Jesus has already taken your judgment. You’re now free. And that, as we’ll see in the next chapter, means you carry a new identity.
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