The Great Attraction: The Uplifted Christ
And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself (John 12:32)
IN A RECENT ADVERTISEMENT OF A Sunday evening service in one of. our American cities it was stated that there would be three attractions: a high-class movie show, a popular gospel pianist and his wife, rendered by a well-known prima donna. It is somewhat startling when an unusually gifted and popular preacher, or his advertising committee, thinks of the gospel of the Son of God as having so lost its power to draw, that it must be bolstered up by putting on a selection from a very questionable opera, rendered by a professional opera singer, as an additional attraction to help out our once crucified and now glorified Savior and Lord.
This advertisement set me to thinking as to what really was the great attraction to men in this day as well as in former days? At once there came to my mind the words of our text containing God’s answer to this question: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself.” There is nothing else that draws like the uplifted Christ. Movies may get a crowd of empty-headed and empty-hearted young men and maidens, and even middle-aged folks without brains or moral earnestness, for a time, but nothing really draws and holds the men and women who are worthwhile like Jesus Christ lifted up. Nineteen centuries of Christian history prove the drawing power of Jesus when He is properly presented to men.
Let us now look at the exact meaning of the text. First, notice who is the speaker, and what were the circumstances under which He spoke? The Speaker was our Lord Jesus. Not the Christ of men’s imaginings, but the Christ of reality, the Christ of actual historic fact. The Christ of actuality, who lived here among men and was seen, heard and handled by men, and who was soon to die a real death to save real sinners from a real hell and a real heaven.
The circumstances were these. Certain Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Jewish feast came to one of the apostles, Philip, and said, “We would see Jesus” (John 12:21). And Philip went to Andrew and told Andrew what these Greeks said. Andrew and Philip together came and told Jesus. In the heart-cry of these Greeks, “We would see Jesus,” our Lord recognized the yearning of the universal heart, the heart of Greek, as well as Jew, for a satisfying Savior. The Greeks had their philosophers and sages, their would-be satisfiers and saviors, the greatest the world has ever known-Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Epictetus, Epimenides, and many others-but they did not save, and they did not satisfy, and the Greeks cried, “We would see JESUS.” In their eager coming Jesus foresaw the millions of all nations who would flock to Him when He had been crucified as the universal Savior, meeting all the needs of all mankind, and so He cried, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself.”
In the second place, notice the words, “If I be lifted up.” To what does Jesus refer? The next verse answers the question. “But this he said, signifying by what manner of death he should die” (John 12:33). Jesus referred to His lifting up on the cross, to die as an atoning Savior for all
mankind. This verse is often quoted as if it meant that, if we lifted up Christ in our preaching, He would draw men. That is true, and it is a crying shame that we do not hold just Him up more in our preaching, and we would draw far more people if we did; but that is not our Lord’s meaning. The lifting up clearly referred not to His not being lifted up by His enemies on the cross, to expose Him to awful shame and to an agonizing death. It is Christ crucified who draws; it is Christ crucified who meets the deepest needs of the heart of all mankind. It is an atoning Savior, a Savior who atones for the sins of men by His death, and thus saves from the holy wrath of an infinitely holy God, who meets the needs of men, and thus draws all men, for all men are sinners. Preach any Christ but a crucified Christ, and you will not draw men for long. Preach any gospel but a gospel of atoning blood, and it will not draw for long.
Oh! men and women, look now! See Jesus Christ lifted up on the cross, see Him hanging on that awful cross, see Him wounded for your transgressions, bruised for your iniquities, and the chastisement of your peace laid on Him. Oh, men and women living in sin, men and women rejecting Christ for the world, men and women who have looked to the lies of other systems that deny His atoning blood, Listen! “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
Mr. Torrey’s whole sermon can be read here