And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. John 12:32
Lord, this is a very timely truth for today since today we are celebrating Easter, or Resurrection Sunday. This is Your exaltation. You were lifted up on the cross and paid the penalty for my sins. You died. But then You rose and have been glorified before all men. And actually, the word in Greek is just implying “all, any, every, the whole” which makes me think that everything that exists is being drawn toward You.
You were lifted up from the earth in more than one way. Just as Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so that those who looked upon it and believed the word of God could be saved, so You were lifted up on the cross that all who look upon You and believe the word of God shall be saved. But if things only stopped upon the cross, Your exaltation would not have been complete. Anyone can die on a cross. That was the purpose of the cross. No one ever survived the cross. But You died on the cross. You were placed dead in the grave. But three days later, You were lifted from death! You rose to life. And forty days later, Your disciples watched as You were exalted again and lifted up from the earth into the clouds.
So, since You were exalted and that condition was met, we can count on the rest of the verse being true also. You will draw all men unto You. Now this word in Greek for draw is “helkuo.” And I’ve been reading what scholars of Greek and others say about “helkuo”, to draw. And of it’s uses in Scripture, it can mean draw as in drawing a net full of fish in, it can mean being dragged against your will, and it is used in the context of drawing forth a sword. So, what does it mean that You will draw all men to You? Will every person be saved? Will every person come to know You?
Well, I’m going to look at things starting from the last first. What about a sword? Does it have any say over whether it is used or not? I don’t think so. Not at all. It was designed to be wielded by it’s bearer. When it’s own decides to use it for it’s design, he pulls it out and uses it. The sword has no say. It’s just what he is and what he will be used for. It will be wielded in the owner’s hands. This is the right that the owner has. It is his sword. He is the life of the sword. Without him, the sword is just an inanimate object and has no force of it’s own. It’s only force lies in the hands of its wielder. So, I’ll hold that thought temporarily.
The next context is a a man being dragged against his will. This happened to Paul on numerous occasions. The force dragging him was stronger than his own. It was against his will. He had no choice but to submit because to fight would be futile. The force was greater and stronger than him. And so he was dragged. Again, he had no choice. Even if he felt strongly against being dragged, he must be dragged, because he had no strength to resist. I’ll hold this thought too.
Now, to the first context shared. Here I see the idea of the fishermen out on the see. I think of You, Jesus, telling them to cast the net in again after a night of empty fishing. Only this time, because You say so, the nets fill to overflowing with fish. And they drag the nets to shore. I have to hold this thought too.
While all those thoughts are mulling in my little brain, I think about what I read this morning. And people much more intelligent than me and much more knowledgeable by far about Greek and exegesis and such were trying to make sense of this dragging of Yours and how it can be in terms of free will and salvation and how it can seem to be a contradiction. But as one commentator said, Your Word is truth and there is no contradiction in it.
Because You were dragged against Your will but according to Your Father’s will to the cross You not only have the right to drag us to You but everyone must be drawn before You. It was against Your will but according to the will of God that You must die for our salvation and our forgiveness. But it was also His will that You must rise for our life and resurrection. Because You not only had to be dragged violently away from the sin that controls us but You had to be dragged from it’s grips into the grip of the Heavenly Father. Psalm 18 actually references words spoken in 2 Samuel 22:49 about You, Lord. “And that brings me forth from mine enemies: You also have lifted me up on high above them that rose up against me: You have delivered me from the violent man.” So my question is, since when does an oppressor, a violent man who is holding us captive, ever let us go gently? You are winning an epic battle here and our oppressor doesn’t want to let go easily. It will take some dragging to get us away.
All men will be drawn or dragged to You. Like Paul, in one sense, we have no choice. You will make us appear before You. There will be a day of judgment and all men, every one, shall stand before You and be judged for what they made of You, what they did with You. Like the sword, it’s our destiny. We will all have to give account before You. But Jesus took the fish and showed us what He would do with the net He dragged in. So, I want to look at that story.
Jesus, You relate to us the parable of the “dragnet” in Matthew 13:47-50. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind. Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down and gathered the good into the vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Look at all these fish. That’s the same word “pas” used for all as it was in Your “all men.” So all the fish will be drawn to You. They will be dragged in to shore in that net. They will be sorted. There will be two piles, good fish and bad fish. One pile will be kept and the other thrown into the fire.
And really, this has nothing to do with negating free will. Because this isn’t really a story about fish at all. It’s about me and every other man who has ever existed or will exist. Because we have each day of our life to exert our own free will. Every day we are alive, we have a choice to make. I can exalt You, Jesus, or I can exalt myself. I can acknowledge what You did on the cross or I can ignore what You did on the cross. I can acknowledge the power of Your resurrection in my life to tear me away from the power of sin and engulf me in the power of righteousness, or I can resist and run from Your power. I can desire to be wielded in Your hand and rejoice in it, or I can be wielded in Your hand because I just can’t resist. So, tell me, when did I not have free will?
There will come a day when we are all drawn or dragged before Your throne. Some of us will come willingly. But woe to the one who goes fighting and kicking on that day. The sad thing is, You’ve warned us. We don’t have to face that day unwillingly. We can be prepared. We can be Yours. It can be the most joyful experience of all eternity. That’s what the cross and Your resurrection are all about. But let’s not overestimate our free will. We are only drawn to You by the power of Your Holy Spirit. I must submit my will to Yours. And I can only do that in this life.
Lord, I am so grateful that You drew me to You. Even if it means giving up my own will and submitting to Yours, it is worth everything. I’m glad that You caught me up in Your net, because what You’ve separated me unto is better than anything I could have imagined for myself. Now, better doesn’t always mean easier, but it’s wonderful and safe to be wielded in Your hands. Today, while we are yet alive, and while the thought is alive, is the day of our salvation. Don’t let us waste it because we will all be drawn before You. And only those who have exalted You in life and in their lives will be exalted before the Father when we are all drawn before You.