On the fifth Sunday in Lent, one particular verse from our gospel reading struck me; it was from John’s gospel, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” As I pondered this verse, I realised that this idea of Jesus being lifted up from the earth and drawing all people to himself is revealed to us in all that Jesus encountered and did, not just in his death and resurrection.
There will have been many moments in Jesus’ life when he will have been “lifted up”. As a baby, his mother Mary will have lifted him up in her arms. His cousin John, lifted him up out of the waters of the river Jordan in his baptism. On Palm Sunday we marked the great celebrations when Jesus was lifted up onto a donkey and entered Jerusalem in great triumph. Then there is his crucifixion, where he was lifted high on a cross, alongside thieves, left to a painful death full of humiliation and violence. But this isn’t the end. God then lifts Jesus up from his earthly tomb to a new, resurrected life. And then there is Jesus’ lifting up into the glory of heaven and God’s right hand in his ascension, which we celebrate on Thursday 14 May with a service at St Mary’s at 8:00pm.
There will have been many moments in our lives when we will have been “lifted up” too. Not quite in the same way as Jesus, but as significant nevertheless. We too have been lifted from cots and cradles by loving relatives celebrating new life. We’ve known times of celebration when we’ve felt lifted up and affirmed by what we’re experiencing and sharing in. But we’ve known too those times of darkness and death, challenge and fear when we might feel that we’ve been lifted up and left to deal with things on our own. But I hope that we have also experienced being lifted up out of situations of darkness and difficulty, of being given a new start, of experiencing some kind of amazing transformation in our lives.
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself”. In all that we experience – celebration or challenge, joy or sorrow – Jesus has been there too. This is why Jesus truly saves us; because he knows what life is like for us. There is no human experience that is beyond God’s reach, beyond God’s touch, beyond God’s transforming presence. So, this Ascension-tide, let us rejoice that Jesus is lifted up into glory with his Father. For in this “lifting up”, he lifts up our humanity and his, that we
might share in this glory too.