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Sermon : Sodom and Gomorrah

The Throne of the Cross: The Glorification of Jesus

And exalted He is. Indeed, some have said that death as martyrdom may be called υψωθσιs, which may come from Isaiah 52:13 where the servant of the Lord is exalted and glorified - υψωθησεται και δοζασθησεται σφοδρα - and followed by predictions of suffering, contempt and death.19 The very same word is used by Peter in Acts 5:31 when he speaks of Jesus being exalted (υψωσεν) to the right hand of God.20 In Northern Syria, apparently υψωθηναι is a customary term for crucifixion, and comes from the Aramaic 'ezdeqeph, which is translated as 'to be raised on high.'21 Thus, for John the exaltation is not at the ascension, as it is for the Synoptic Gospels, but instead is at the death on the cross. It is the 'lifting up' of Jesus at His crucifixion that He is ultimately glorified. In the discourse with Pontius Pilate, Jesus declares Himself as king, and that He was indeed born as such (18:33-37). Thus, the cruel jokes intended as mockery of Jesus serve as irony - the Man who is King is robed with purple and crowned with thorns, then praised as king (19:2-3), after which He is then nailed to His throne. Thus, the jokes are not actually on Jesus, but in fact on those administering them.22 Interestingly, Jesus is still wearing the purple robe and thorn-crown when Pilate brings Him before the crowds (19:5), where Matthew and Mark have these taken off beforehand.23 That is, when Pilate presents Jesus to His people, He is presented as king, therefore explicitly portraying the rejection the Jews make of their true sovereign in place of the world's ruler - the crowds would rather submit themselves to Caesar than to God (19:14-16). Furthermore, Pilate himself declares the truth which he had no intention of recognising by having an inscription not only written proclaiming Jesus as king, but written in three languages so that all who read it would know.24 Pilate reaffirms Jesus' kingship with legal Roman precision, announcing Jesus is King to everyone to passes by and reads the sign.25

In 8:28, Jesus is speaking to the Jews and alludes to the fact that it is they who will lift Him up,26 and in John 3:1-21, Jesus is speaking with Nicodemus and giving a teaching on the 'new birth.' In His discourse, Jesus makes mention of the Son of Man being 'lifted up' (3:14), and to the informed reader it is quite clear that the author is associating this 'lifting up' with the cross of crucifixion.27 Indeed, Jesus likens Himself to the serpent which Moses was commanded to lift up in the desert so that everyone who was bitten could look up to the lifted serpent, believe and be saved from death. This of course is a perfect parallel to what Jesus is said to accomplish on the cross. That is, John chose such an allusion for a reason, for the serpent, though being dead, could make the believer alive.28 Jesus is not said to bring a means of expiation for sin, but is in fact implied as being the expiation Himself. After all, Jesus is 'the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (1:29),' and at His death He is again alluded to as the Paschal Lamb, as the author gives echoes of Exodus 12:46. But not only this, the lifted serpent in of Moses declares that whoever would look on his raised hands would believe in Him who gave the command to do so29 - so that whomever would look at the raised Jesus would believe in Him who not only glorified Him at this cross, but would believe in Him who hung there, and thereby inheriting eternal life from the temporarily though actually dead.

With this we see the first reason for Jesus' death; its necessity is to bring about the salvation of the world, and according to John it would seem that the world is too engulfed by darkness to be saved in any other way than this. In fact, such a strict theology of necessity that involves such an emphasis on Jesus' divinity has no room for Simon the Cyrene in the Passion Narrative, but instead Jesus carries His own cross for Himself and by Himself - Jesus neither requires help nor likely would He accept it.30 Nay, Jesus willingly lays down his own life (10:17-18) and thus it follows that none Therefore, Jesus death is inevitable and necessary, and He is fully aware of this and goes toward it expectantly and in control. The cross then showed the love of God, which was then the completion of the work of Jesus. Jesus was to show the love of God to the world, and to stop short of the cross would therefore be to leave the work unfinished - to in effect say that God's love would go no further than that crucifixion moment.31 Indeed, going to the cross shows that the love of God has nothing it's not prepared to do and suffer, so that there is no limit to God's love. Jesus has therefore enabled all people, through His life and specifically this act of the crucifixion, to see what the real nature of God is like.32

  1. Lee, Religious Thought, 147.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid., 148.
  4. Crane, Message, 106.
  5. Brown, Crucified Christ, 61.
  6. Crane, Message, 107.
  7. Brown, Crucified Christ, 64.
  8. Lee, Religious Thought, 146.
  9. Ibid., 145.
  10. Ibid., 147.
  11. Ibid., 146.
  12. Raymond E. Brown, The Death of the Messiah: From Gethsemane to the Grave, vol. 2 (Broadway, NY: Doubleday, 1994), 917.
  13. William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of John, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew press, 1975), 206.
  14. Ibid., 210.