VIDEO If I Be Lifted Up

Jul 24, 2013

This old gospel hymn can be found on the Emmylou Harris “Angel Band” album.

John 12:32 King James Version (KJV)
32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

The lyrics:

Down in the valley while on my knees
I asked my Jesus carry please
He promised that he’d take care of me
If I would lift him up

He said if I
Be lifted up
He said if I
Be lifted up
I ‘ll be your father
I’ll be your mother
I’ll be your sister
And your brother

He said if I
Be lifted up
I’ll bring joy, joy, joy
To your soul

When I am lonely
When I am sad
My Jesus comes and makes me glad
He is the dearest friend I’ve have had
I want to lift Him up

He said if I
Be lifted up
He said if I
Be lifted up
I ‘ll be your father
I’ll be your mother
I’ll be your sister
And your brother

He said if I
Be lifted up
I’ll bring joy, joy, joy
To your soul

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The Guys Who Saved Easter

Nick Joe
Without Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, the story of Jesus’ resurrection might have turned out differently.

Every story has a good backstory.

Like a prequel, the backstory chronicles events that happened before the primary narrative unfolds. And while it doesn’t change the how or who or when of a story, it certainly changes the why.

The story of Easter is no different. Surely you’re familiar with the primary narrative: Two thousand years ago when a handful of Jesus’ followers showed up to His grave to mourn His death and care for His body, the tomb was empty. But do you know the backstory?

Easter’s backstory was the proof for first-century Christians that when they saw Jesus walking around in the weeks following His crucifixion, they weren’t seeing a ghost. It’s the proof generations of believers since then have that Jesus actually rose from the dead. The legitimacy of the Christian faith hinges on just one event: the resurrection. And without two unlikely heroes in the backstory of Easter, Jesus’ death might have faded into oblivion without so much as a mention in history books.

Here’s what would have happened: Jesus would have risen from the dead in a mass grave, in a garbage dump, in a valley called Gehenna outside Jerusalem, all by Himself. Gehenna was a terrible place, pungent with decay and burning garbage (so bad, in fact, that its name became associated with the idea of a fiery hell). Historically, when a person was crucified, his body was left on the cross to rot, as a sign of Rome’s authority. Eventually, he would be pried off the cross, thrown in a wagon with other dead bodies, and tossed in a mass grave. No one—not even the family of the deceased—was allowed to mourn his death. It was as if he had never lived. And that’s exactly what would have happened to the body of Jesus, had it not been for two improbable heroes: Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.

These men, who I like to call Nick and Joe, enter the scene early in the ministry of Jesus. We find them among a group of religious leaders whose full-time job was being good. The Pharisees didn’t like Jesus because He wouldn’t keep their rules. But within this group of religious do-gooders existed another small faction so impressed by Jesus’ miracles that they thought maybe, just maybe, He was the long-awaited Messiah sent by God. But they needed more info.

The story picks up in John 3: “Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him’” (vv. 1-2).

Nick was warming up to ask the big question when Jesus did that weird Jesus thing we see Him doing throughout the Gospels—He answered Nick’s question before it was asked: “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (v. 3).

I wonder how He knew, Nick must have thought. Because Jesus sees inside hearts, He knew that Nick, and everyone in the world for that matter, wanted the answer to this question: Is there a way we can know for sure that we have entrance into the kingdom of God?

And in typical Jesus fashion, His answer was perplexing. “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nick asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” (v. 4).

But Jesus wasn’t talking about physical birth. He said, “No one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (vv. 5-6, emphasis added). He was saying that if there’s going to be a birth into the kingdom of God, then the Spirit of God has to be part of that new spiritual birth. In other words, just as we were physically born to our parents, there is an internal spiritual birth that connects us to God in a way that can never be undone. Jesus’ answer—that you must be born again—shattered everything the Pharisees believed about how to be holy.

“How can this be?” Nick asked (v. 9). This good Jewish man knew the Torah like the back of his hand. So Jesus brought up the story about Moses in the wilderness when the Israelites’ campsite was overrun with snakes. It was a mess. Snakes slithered into beds, biting men, women, and children. Since they couldn’t just pack up and leave, God told Moses to craft a bronze snake and lift it high on a stake; then, everyone who looked at it would be saved. (See Num. 21: 4-9.) Not exactly the instruction he was expecting, but it wasn’t up for debate.

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness,” Jesus told Nick, “so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him” (John 3:14-15). From the very start of His ministry, Jesus predicted how and why He must die. He, too, would be lifted up on a stake so that anyone who believes in Him—not behaves for Him—can gain entrance into God’s kingdom.

After that, Nick kept a low profile for a time. But he probably discussed the encounter with Joe, and the two no doubt pondered Jesus’ odd teaching, because they apparently kept following Him from afar.

Meanwhile, Jesus continued to teach about belief versus behavior. Spirit versus flesh. Faith versus religion. He continued to heal diseases and gain new followers. The Pharisees grew angrier and angrier until Jesus did the unimaginable—He raised His friend Lazarus from the dead.

Outraged, the Pharisees orchestrated a plan to get rid of Jesus—one that involved betrayal, false witnesses, and an impromptu, illegal court trial. They dragged Jesus to the home of Pontius Pilate, a Roman officer serving under Emperor Tiberius Caesar. Finding no fault, Pilate attempted to pacify the mob by beating Jesus within an inch of His life, but the restless crowd began chanting, “Crucify him!”

“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. And a shout came from the crowd: “We have no king but Caesar.” This was problematic because now Jesus was positioned as an enemy of Rome. So Pilate handed Him over to be crucified (John 19:15-16).

Nick and Joe, Mary, Peter, John, and the rest of Jesus’ followers couldn’t believe it had come to this—death by crucifixion! They watched Him drag His cross to Golgotha, where the nails were driven into His hands and feet. They saw Jesus’ head rise slowly above the crowd. Then His neck, His arms . . . And suddenly it clicked in Nick and Joe’s minds. “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.”

This is what He meant! This is what He expected! This is part of the story! Surely other scriptures came to mind. Hadn’t the prophet Isaiah said, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isa. 53:5)?

Nick and Joe decided they couldn’t hide any longer, so they did the unthinkable. After they watched Jesus suffocate and bleed to death on that cross, they boldly asked Pilate for His body. Joe took the corpse to the tomb he had reserved for himself and his family. Then he and Nick together anointed Jesus with myrrh and aloe—75 pounds in total (John 19:39). In accordance with Jewish burial customs, they wrapped Him in spices and strips of linen.

As sundown approached, they rolled the massive stone into place to seal the tomb and left without hope of ever seeing Jesus alive again. No one waited outside the tomb expecting the resurrection. His friends and family didn’t greet Easter morning with a loud “10, 9, 8, 7 . . .” countdown. Yet to the surprise of even those who’d repeatedly heard Him foretell His death and resurrection, Jesus appeared alive, whole, resurrected.

Faith, courage, and concern for the Lord’s body made it possible for first-century bystanders in Jerusalem to believe without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus had indeed been dead and was once again alive. If Jesus had risen from the ashes of Gehenna and walked into town covered in rat bites and reeking of trash, that still would have been remarkable. But it would have been explainable: He clearly hadn’t been dead, they’d have reasoned. As it turned out, the actions of Nick and Joe provided irrefutable proof that Jesus had, in fact, risen. Without their public proclamation of belief, without their disregard for position or popularity, without their compassionate care for the body of Jesus, this would be a very different story.

And that’s how two guys named Nick and Joe saved Easter.

by Andy Stanley
Scripture references are from the NIV translation.

Man and God

Matthew 22:41-46

The Pharisees hated that so many people believed the man standing before them was the Messiah. This Galilean commoner had no pedigree. Sure, he might astound people with inexplicable wisdom, but surely he was not the returning king—for what would that make them?

Not only did they have the wrong answer; they asked the wrong question. They thought Christ’s rise to prominence merely raised the possibility that He was the long-awaited Messiah. But Christ pointed them to a deeper truth, on which depended the salvation of man. “What do you think about the Christ,” He asked them. “Whose son is He?” (Matt. 22:42)

They knew the answer, just as they knew the rumors about this distant descendant of David. But David had many descendants. The Christ would be, they replied, “the son of David.” “Then how,” Christ asked, “does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying, ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, until I put Your enemies beneath Your feet'”?” (vv. 43-44).

He referred to Psalm 110, in which the Holy Spirit speaks through David to illuminate Christ’s divinity. The Pharisees thought this debate was about whether Christ was the Messiah. In an instant, Christ raised the stakes.

His interlocutors were stubborn but clever. They recognized the implication of His question. Of course, David would not have called some great-great-grandchild “Lord.” A king would give that honor only to the living God.

Christ was pointing them—and us—to the startling truth: He is king, and He is Savior, and He is God.

It was a scandal, and it was the only path to salvation. God took on flesh, bore it sinlessly into death, and raised it to life eternal, thereby breaking the hold of sin and death over mankind. God became man so that man might return to God.

This upends the world, and it terrified the self-regarding Pharisees. So they were silent, “nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question.” (v. 46)

God forgive us when we are likewise silent. Christ is the risen God. Tell it to the world.

–by Tony Woodlief

Answered by a Word from God

“And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.” (Matthew 22:46)

The two dominant sects among the Jews at the time of Christ were the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Although both of these believed in the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, they both refused to believe that Jesus was the Messiah.

A climactic confrontation occurred during His final week in Jerusalem. Each group tried to trap Him into a compromising doctrinal argument. To the Sadducees, who rejected the doctrine of resurrection, He said: “Have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matthew 22:31-32). This exposition silenced the Sadducees.

“But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence” (Matthew 22:34), they then tried to trip Him up. He turned the tables on them by a reference to the 110th Psalm, asking how David could call the Messiah Lord if He was David’s son (Matthew 22:45). As our text indicates, they also were unable to respond.

It is most significant that each group was silenced with one single word from the Scriptures. To the Sadducees, the word was “am” (“I am the God of Abraham” [v. 32]), indicating that Abraham was still living. To the Pharisees, the word was “Lord” (“The LORD said unto my Lord” [v. 44]; that is, “Jehovah said unto Adonai”), proving that the Messiah was both human and divine, descended from David but also David’s Lord. Christ’s argumentation was based in each case on the determinative authority of just one word in the Scriptures. For Christ the Scriptures were inerrant and of full and final authority, and they could not answer His claims without rejecting the Scriptures which they professed to believe. HMM

And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me

And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.—John 12:32.
We know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.—1 John 3:2.

FOR if Christ be born within,
Soon that likeness shall appear
Which the soul had lost through sin,
God’s own image fair and clear,
And the soul serene and bright
Mirror back His heavenly light.
LAURENTIUS LAURENTI. 1700.

LORD, never was a magnet so powerful to draw to itself the hard steel, as Thou, the Lord, lifted up on the cross, art powerful to draw unto Thee the hearts of men. O beloved Lord, draw me through joy and sorrow, from all that is in the world to Thee and to Thy cross; form me, and shape me into Thine image here below, that I may enjoy Thee eternally in the glory whither Thou art gone. HENRY SUSO.

Think who Christ is, and what Christ is,—and then think what His personal influence must be—quite infinite, boundless, miraculous. So that the very blessedness of heaven will not be merely the sight of our Lord, it will be the being made holy, and kept holy, by that sight. CHARLES KINGSLEY.

Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not

Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not. Jeremiah 45:5

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. — Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ

Jesus; who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. —

Christ … suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps. Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

Matthew 11:29. Philippians 2:5-8. Matthew 10:38. 1 Peter 2:21. 1 Timothy 6:6-8. Philippians 4:11.

Their Redeemer is strong

Their Redeemer is strong. Jeremiah 50:34

I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins. —I have laid help upon one that is mighty. — The LORD … thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty one of Jacob. — Mighty to save. — Able to keep you from falling. — Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. —

He is able … to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him.

Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem?

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? … I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Amos 5:12. Psalm 89:19. Isaiah 49:26. Isaiah 63:1. Jude 24. Romans 5:20. John 3:18. Hebrews 7:25. Isaiah 50:2. Romans 8:35,38,39.