They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father.
So Jesus said,“When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” Even as he spoke, many believed in him. (John 8:27-30)
Read: Amos 1:1 – 6:14
Relate: In case you didn’t notice, I switched from the New Living Translation to the New International Version for this portion of John 8. The reason for that is because the NLT adds three words “on the cross” that don’t belong. They are not in the Greek. They are not in the original.
Now, to be fair, the NLT does add those three words for a very good reason. Almost as far back as you can go, there have been church scholars who have tied this verse in to John 3:14 and to John 12:32 where Jesus uses the same word to clearly refer to the crucifixion. In John 3:14, Jesus compares Himself being lifted up to the bronze serpent that Moses lifted up in the desert. (Click here for more on this) In John 12:32, Jesus does add “from the earth” to “lifted up” (hypsoo) to clearly show He is using the less common, physical, tangible use of the word. (Click here for more on this)
But the far more common use of the word we translate: “lifted up” would be “to exalt”. Jesus uses the word in Matthew 11:23 (Luke 10:15) to say Capernaum won’t be “lifted up” to heaven. He also uses it twice in Matthew 23:12 (Luke 14:11, 18:14) when He says whoever exalts himself will be humbled but whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Clearly, He isn’t talking about crucifixion here. Peter and James both refer back to that proverb of Jesus in their letters. (James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6) Peter also uses the word in his Pentecost sermon when he says Jesus was “exalted” to the right hand of God. Paul uses the word to say he lowered himself that the Corinthian church might be “lifted up”. Did he crucify the believers there? The most unique use of the word is in Acts 13:17 when God made the Israelites prosper during their time in Egypt. Literally, He lifted them up, exalted, or as translated, “made them prosper”.
Personally, I think the context calls for the more common translation of “lifted up” as exalted in this verse. Perhaps you could say it is a double reference, Jesus is cryptically referring to the cross. That may be but for those listening to Him at that time, Jesus was saying that when He is exalted, they will understand. Look at the context. In this conversation the Pharisees called Him a liar (8:13), questioned His paternity (8:19), and the people asked if He was suicidal (8:22). Jesus is telling them, “If you will exalt me, if you will make me great in your life, then you will know.”
React: I know this is true in my life. All too often the reason doubt creeps in, the reason I begin to question the will and the calling of God for my life is because I have made myself, or my issues great and I have made Him less in my life. The easiest, most telling indicator or spiritual thermostat for my life is the amount of worship that is saturating my environment. I am not talking just about the amount of time I have spent specifically in prayer or in praise, but also how much it is the “background” to my day. When I’m reading or studying, is it playing or am I in silence or listening to something else? Where I cannot control the environment, what are the songs getting stuck in my head? In those times when my faith is the strongest, I am swimming in an environment of exaltation. When I am spiritually strongest is when He is being made much in my life.
Be exalted in my life. Be lifted up in my mind, in my heart, and with my mouth. God, I exalt You. You are great. Help me to always swim in an ever increasing understanding of just how great You truly are. help me to understand. Help me to know You more and more as I learn to lift You higher and higher.