If I be Lifted up . . . I will Draw All men unto Me
Shortly after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the week before His crucifixion, Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me” (John 12:32 KJV). This article provides a commentary on John 12:32, providing the context and explaining its meaning.
Context of John 12:32
John 11:1-44 tells of Jesus raising Lazarus from the Dead. Then, five days before Passover, Jesus entered Jerusalem on a young donkey as prophesied in Scripture (John 12:12-16).
Shortly after this, Philip and Andrew introduced some Greeks to Jesus. “And Jesus answered them, The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:23-24 / ESV).
Jesus knew that His time to die had arrived, and that His death would both bring Him glory and bear much fruit.
Jesus acknowledged that His soul was troubled. He did not want to die, but His impending death was the purpose for which He came (John 12:27).
Christ went on to say, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John 12:31 / NKJV). Jesus was about to be tried and executed by worldly rulers. But for this, Satan would be judged and cast out of heaven.
This is when Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me” (John 12:32).
In context, Jesus proclaimed that the time to fulfill His mission by dying had arrived. But like a seed, His death would result in new life and produce fruit.
Meaning of John 12:31
Our English Bible versions provide good translations of John 12:31. We will examine the meaning of this passage by examining each of its two phrases.
If I be Lifted Up
“If I be lifted up from the earth” is a clear reference to Christ’s crucifixion. John removed any possible doubt by immediately adding, “This He said, signifying by what death He would die” (John 12:33 / NKJV).
The Jews executed people by stoning (having many people throw rocks and stones at them). The Romans made execution more torturous by nailing people to a cross and leaving them to die. Jesus predicted that He would be executed by crucifixion, not stoning.
“If I be lifted up” is stated as a 3rd class conditional phrase, which is assumed to be generally true in the present and realized in the future.
In this passage, “if” does not refer to a mere possibility. The NIV, ESV and NET translate this passage as “When I am lifted up from the earth,” accurately conveying the certainty of this condition (Christ’s crucifixion) coming to pass.
I will Draw ALL to Me
Jesus said, “I will draw all men unto Me.” The result of the conditional phrase coming to pass is that Jesus would draw all people to Himself.
The word “draw” is from the Greek word, “helkyo,” which means to draw, pull, haul, drag, or attract. This same word was used in John 21:6 in reference to the disciples not being able to haul in their fishing net because it was so full.
“I will draw” is stated using a Future Indicative Active verb. This is stated not as a mere possibility, but as a fact. Jesus will draw all people to Himself.
Jesus proclaimed that He would draw ALL men to Himself. Some versions say “all people,” but neither “men” nor “people” is in the Greek text. In Greek, the passage says, “I will draw ALL unto Me.” The word “men” or “people” is supplied in English translations to help our understanding.
The Greek word Jesus used was “pas,” which means ALL or every. The word “ALL” is significant. The pull of the cross is not restricted to just some people. Christ’s pull is not limited to just the elect. Jesus said He would draw ALL people to Himself.
Application of John 12:32
John 6:44 records Jesus saying, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” Some people might interpret this to mean that some people may not be able to come to Jesus, supporting the idea of a “limited atonement.” But in John 12:32, Jesus said He would “draw ALL” people to Himself. The power of the cross is NOT limited.
Jesus said that if / when He was “lifted up,” He “will draw ALL” people to Himself (John 12:32). The gospels all document Jesus being lifted up from the earth to die on the cross. Jesus fulfilled the condition of being “lifted up from the earth.” Therefore, His promise of drawing ALL people to Himself applies to each and every person.
God the Father sent His Son, Jesus to die on the cross to pay the penalty for the sins of ALL people, and to draw ALL people to Himself for salvation. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Jesus Christ shed His blood to pay for the sins of ALL. And by His crucifixion, Jesus draws ALL people to Himself. God’s Word promises that ALL will be drawn to Christ by His being lifted up from the earth.
But not everyone responds to the pull of the cross. Many resist the Holy Spirit’s drawing work in their heart. But “now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). We need to respond to the Spirit’s influence when God draws us because we never know if God will draw us again.
So, as you reflect on Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, draw near to God by confessing your sin and trusting Jesus as your savior.
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