Lifted Up, But Not All the Way
by Pastor George Van Alstine
Jesus taught this surprising truth:
“All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)
The same principle is behind many of his other radical ideas, such as turning the other cheek when a person hits you, and needing to become like a little child to enter God’s Kingdom. Jesus’ disciples echoed in their own writings what they learned from him:
“Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.” (James 4:10)
“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time.” (1Peter 5:6)
God seems to be giving his followers a guarantee that he will always bring us out on top if we humbly trust him.
Jesus dramatized this in his own life. The Apostle Paul wrote of Jesus’ time on earth:
“He humbled himself, and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father.” (Philippians 2:8-11)
But Jesus’ journey to exaltation should be a very important lesson for us. In the Gospel of John, Jesus talks about his “glorification” with a double meaning, referring to his ultimate majesty, but also to his temporary ignominy and defeat on the cross:
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. . . . And I, when I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:23, 32)
“He said this to indicate what kind of death he was to die.” (v. 33)
They would “lift him up” on the cross, which would seem to be an awful tragedy. Yet, this lifting up would elevate him as an opportunity for all to see and be “drawn” to him for salvation.
In a sense, we could say that the exaltation on the cross was the first stop on Jesus’ journey to his complete exaltation in victory and majesty.
By analogy, you may be called by God to extreme and unmistakable suffering – your cross. You ask, Why? Did God not promise me exaltation if I follow him? Yes, just as he promise exaltation to Jesus. And as was true for him, the first stop of your exaltation may be suffering, public and open suffering that all can see. Does this mean the shattering of your dream, the failure of your faith? No, your being lifted up may be used by God to draw people to him. This may be the high point of your life, your moment of glory, what you were created for.
God has promised to exalt you, but your exaltation may have two stages, as Jesus’ did. There may be a stop on the way to your ultimate glory, a stop a little higher than the earth – about cross-high!