Just what did Jesus mean by all
in John 12:32, "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself"
Was Jesus saying He would draw everyone everywhere to Himself, that all
would be saved?
When we look at the context of John 12, it helps us interpret what Jesus meant. The Greeks came to Philip asking to see Jesus. But it wasn't until after Jesus's death and resurrection that they would truly be able to understand who He is, to truly see Him.
By saying all
in verse 32, Jesus means "without distinction." Rich or poor. All races. All nationalities. Children and adults. No matter who they are or where they're from, all kinds of people are drawn to the cross and can be delivered and saved.
We see the same language in John 10:16, "And I [Jesus] have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd."
Paul put it this way: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."
And when Jesus used the word draw
, it's the same one He used in John 6:44: "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day."
No one can come to saving faith apart from the Father's intervention in their life. He must open blind eyes, unstop deaf ears, and change their heart of stone.
In John 6:37, Jesus said, "All that the Father gives me will come to me the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out."
You would think that all Jesus had done, and all that He would do, would have drawn the people of His day to believe in Him. But how did the crowd respond? "We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?"
Now, we must not to read their response as a genuine question, but instead, as a defiant challenge.
We could read it this way: "We
have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you
say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?"
They knew when He said He was to be "lifted up" He was referring to His death. They could have been thinking of scripture passages from the Psalms, Isaiah, Daniel, and Zechariah, which state, once Messiah appeared, He would remain God's Chosen One forever, that He would become their Deliverer and lead Israel to victory.
They hadn't read the prophecies for themselves. Instead, they had heard the Pharisees teach what Messiah would be like. And a conquering military leader who would live forever was more appealing than one who would be lifted up and die. What kind of king and deliverer was that?
When they pledged their allegiance to Jesus, they thought He would usher in an age of health, wealth, and prosperity. A lot of people still fall into this trap. They think they can "stand on His promises" and everything will work out the way they want it to. But they don't see God for who He really is.
The Bible says He's faithful and does not lie. Throughout history, God has fulfilled His promises to the letter. If we don't see a promise fulfilled, it doesn't mean God has failed. It means there's something wrong with us. We're all born sinful. Because of that, we can't see God for who He is.
Jesus realized that answering their question would not get to the root of their problem. If their problem was simply a misunderstanding of Scripture, Jesus could have replied with, "Haven't you read Isaiah 53, about Messiah dying for His people's sins? Haven't you read Psalm 22 about Messiah's death or Daniel 9:26, which says that Messiah will be cut off?"
But their problem wasn't a theological issue. It wasn't as if Jesus needed to sit down with them and outline the scriptures. Even if He did, they wouldn't understand it. The heart of their problem was a problem with their heart, and they were walking in spiritual and moral darkness.
Jesus replied to the crowd's question. Bear in mind that these words were the last ones He addressed to the public. After this, Jesus spoke to His disciples and to those who arrested and tried Him. This was an hour of special opportunity. The crowd of Jews had one last chance to change, to repent and believe in Christ as their Messiah.
Jesus began by saying, "For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light."
Notice that Jesus emphasized "light" five times. This isn't the first time Jesus called Himself the light. He said back in John 8:12, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
And in just a few short days, that light would be gone. The crowd had a narrow window of opportunity to give up their false ideas about Messiah being a political savior and to act on the truth. That truth centered on the fact that they were sinners walking in darkness. They needed to come to Jesus, the Light, to repent and put their faith, hope, and trust in Christ as Savior and Lord.
Sadly, these Jews didn't understand what Jesus was saying, because they were oblivious to their condition. Jesus said, "He who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes"
We'll discuss what Jesus meant by this next time.