Thursday, August 6, 2009

Lifted up

It occurs to me that the whole of sin may be considered contained in one action in history. On the lips of Jesus in the Gospel of John is this statement about being lifted up - the word lift-up is a theme in the Gospel of John. See for example John 12:32. And I when[if] I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all [the people] to me.

Paul takes this act to an ultimate theological statement in 2 Corinthians 5:21 - For he made him who knew no sin to be sin over [for] us that we may become the righteousness of God in him.

According to the Gospel then, there is one act in history that enables a turnaround for all the people whether us or them.

This invites an exploration of a few words: lift up, draw, become - but in view of the year long study that Phil is doing on Psalm 24, I think I will look at the word 'lift up' in the Psalms, Job and in the New Testament. It will be instructive to observe the Greek/Hebrew Divide - who uses which word to translate the six uses of 'lift up/take away' in the Psalm and what words are connected to John's usage of 'lift up' in the Greek.

I always remember being surprised at 'lift up' in John (based on John 3 and Moses lifting up the serpent) when I first realized it did not mean 'exalt' in the traditional sense of honour but 'get crucified' in the literal historical sense - i.e. be lifted up on a tree - in other words - a sense of shame.

The subject verbs are ὑψόω (hypsoo) and נשא (nasa) in the Hebrew. The Hebrew word is common and appears to have more than one idiomatic usage - to encourage - lift up the face, or the opposite - such as in the phrase 'he will bear his iniquity'. Some raw material here.


Beth said...

Can't we still say that "lifted up" in John 3 implies glorification because it is in the cross and resurrection that Jesus is exalted to glory, and hence, opens up the path of glory for all?

Also, how does the verb "lift up" pertain to the earlier passage about being born "from above."

Bob MacDonald said...

Yes there is that glorification - and it is confirmed by the subsequent uses of lifted up - particularly chapter 12. Father - glorify your Son followed by the voice from heaven. But it is early in the Gospel for Nicodemus - and what is it that he should have known about as 'a teacher in Israel'? Job is I think a prime example of being born from above. His restoration and recovery is a very practical exposition of what you are considering in your blog posts. There is a complex of converging thoughts that needs spinning out (and a comment is too small a chink in the wall to do the spinning in). I wonder if the role of God as Arbiter/Referee allows us to articulate the 'bridge over the chasm' between God and humanity prior to the event of the crucifixion. I think it must, or election loses its impact.

Bob MacDonald said...

Beth - with regard to the second question of your comment, - Mary Coloe in her second volume on John - Dwelling in the Household of God - in her chapter 4 has a lengthy treatment of chapter 3.

Is it Jesus or the Beloved Disciple who speaks about Moses etc vv 13-21?