The Centrality of the Cross (John 12:31-33)

John 12:31-33


31     Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32     And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33     He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.


            In verse 33, John fills us in on what Jesus meant by the phrase “lifted up.”  Jesus was telling the crowd around him that he would die by being “Lifted up,” crucified.  And everything that he says he will here accomplish hinges on the fact that Jesus, God the Son, the perfect and sinless one, would willingly allow himself to be crucified.


            What would happen at Jesus’ crucifixion?  First, the crucifixion will seal the judgment of the world.  There are men who will look at the cross of Christ and will refuse to believe that it means anything.  For those who see Jesus’ death as nothing more than a sad historical event, they will be judged by God.  They will seal their own doom, as they reject the one and only way that they can be made right with God. 


            Second, Jesus says that the ruler of this world is cast out.  This is a reference to Satan who, though never in a position of power over God, has control and influence over the lives of so many.  Though Satan might have believed himself victorious at the death of the Son of God, in truth, his power was forever broken by the shed blood of Jesus.  In Zechariah 3 and Revelation 12, Satan is shown to be our accuser before God.  However, when Jesus died, he paid the price then and there for the sins of God’s children, and thus Satan lost any chance of accusing us.  Simply put, the cross defeated Satan, and we now only await his final destruction.  He may cause problems, even havoc, but he cannot win.


            Third, Jesus said that, at the cross when he is lifted up, he will draw all men to himself.  We must understand “all men” in a similar line of thought as the word “world” was used in verse 19.  Jesus will bring to himself people from every nation, from every tribe, from every ethnicity, because God has a global vision.  Jesus’ death purchased the forgiveness of people both Jew and Greek, Israel and gentile, rich and poor, young and old, male and female.  And Jesus, starting at the cross, will bring all those he died to save to himself, making himself the author and finisher, the founder and perfecter,  of our faith as Hebrews 12:2 says.


            And for you and me, as we look at this passage, we must see that the cross is absolutely central to everything in our lives.  IF we reject the cross, we are judged by God and accused by Satan.  If we put our trust in the Lord Jesus and his atoning work on the cross, we are set free from judgment, we are rescued from God’s wrath against us, and Satan’s accusations against us have no meaning.  Never for a moment belittle the  cross as something old, something simply historical, or something irrelevant.  Instead, see that the sacrifice of Jesus is the most important thing that has ever happened.