“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth,
will draw all men unto me.”
Anticipating death at the hands of His accusers Jesus knew there would be glory on the other side of the ordeal. There were many sons and daughters to save. But Jesus could only save them by the shedding of His blood. The Father had decreed that without the shedding of blood there would be no forgiveness of sins. Jesus knew He had to die.
The Lord knew He had to die by crucifixion, a violent and terrible death. He had to be lifted up between heaven and earth in order to atone for the sins of others. The Innocent had to die for the guilty.
By being crucified according to the Father’s ordained will, and by accepting the sufferings that He was appointed to, Jesus knew that He would one day be able to draw all men to Himself.
This drawing would be effectual.
It would accomplish what it was intended to accomplish in a great spiritual transaction. In the drawing of a soul to Christ a mystical transformation takes place. The sinner is made a saint, someone who is set apart unto holiness. While others might still see the vices of the soul, through the blood of Christ the Father sees virtue.
In front of the great Cathedral of Amiens in France stands a statue of Jesus Christ, and on either side His twelve apostles. Below them are written their greatest virtues, in contrast to their greatest vices. In Peter’s case, his outstanding quality is his courage, but below it you see a figure of Peter fleeing from a leopard, representing his cowardice. Then beneath that you see the same figure sitting on a leopard and riding forth to conquest. The sculptor wished to teach that by contact with the Lord Jesus Christ that very thing which is a man’s weakness can be transfigured into his strength; that very thing from which he fled can become the glorious chariot on which he rides forward, conquering and to conquer.
The soul that is drawn to Christ is not only effectually transformed, but it will enjoy eternal life. Compared to eternity the events of time are nothing. The apostle James asked, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14).
In October of 2003 I received an email from my sister Pat. She was eleven years older than I. We have never been close because of the circumstances of life, but she was still my sister. For years she lived with hepatitis, and wrote to say that she had terminal cancer. She was sixty years old.
In one part of her letter, she wrote that she has lived fully in her sixty years, though not always happily for there was a period when she was angry at God to the point, she avowed herself an atheist. But the love of Christ drew her back to the faith of our father.
In responding to her letter, I noted,
“Pat, You have always been full of fun and adventure, now you face the greatest adventure of all. Death is a great mystery and is inescapable. But as you noted, you have made the journey of life full circle so that now you can touch the face of God—for there is a God to be touched.” Jesus said He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17: 3).
The effectual drawing of a soul to the Savior produces eternal life and joy unspeakable in the journey of grace.
I have noticed that only as thoughts turn to Christ, there is peace of heart and hope for the future. This too is a great mystery but the Lord has proven Himself to be the God of all comfort.
I am reminded of a story associated with the great senator Daniel Webster who was himself a Christian. Daniel Webster was asked if he could comprehend how Jesus Christ could be both God and man. “No, sir,” he replied, and added, “I should be ashamed to acknowledge Him as my Savior if I could comprehend Him. If I could comprehend Him, He could be no greater than myself. Such is my sense of sin, and consciousness of my inability to save myself, that I feel I need a superhuman Savior, one so great and glorious that I cannot comprehend Him.”
I do not know how Christ can comfort all who need His attention. But I know He is the Great Shepherd who cares for His own. He is there when I need Him most as He will be there for all who need Him most. Is it any wonder that down through the centuries Christ has evoked wonder?
Charles Lamb was a great literary writer. He and his friends one evening were talking about people they would have liked to have met. One said he would like to have met Chaucer, and another brought up the name of Sir Thomas Brown. And at length that sacred name of Jesus Christ was mentioned—the name which is above every name. There was a pause, and then Charles Lamb said, in his slow, gentle, and stammering way, “If Shakespeare came into the room, we should all stand up, but if Jesus Christ came in, we should all kneel.”
The drawing of individuals to the Cross does not mean that all men will be saved. The Bible is clear. There is a heaven to gain and a hell to fear. Nevertheless, all types of men will be drawn to Christ. The Gentile will be drawn as well as the Jew. The rich as well as the poor. The famous and the infamous can come to Calvary and be forgiven of their many sins and start life anew. That is the message of the Cross.
A woman came to a minister one day carrying a container of wet sand.
“Pastor, do you see what this is?” she asked.
“Yes,” was the reply, “it is wet sand.”
“But do you know what it means?”
“I do not know exactly what you mean by it, woman; what is it?”
“Pastor,” she said, “that’s me; and the multitude of the sins that constantly dirty my heart cannot be numbered.”
Then she exclaimed in despair with Paul,
“Oh, wretched creature that I am! How can such a wretch as I ever be saved and kept clean from the influences of the world?”
The pastor was moved by the woman’s distress.
“Where did you get the sand?” he asked.
“At the beach.”
“Go back, then, to the beach. Take a spade with you; dig, dig, and raise a great mound; shovel it up as high as you can, then leave it there. Take your stand by the seashore, and watch the effect of the waves upon the heap of the sand.”
“Pastor,” she exclaimed, “I see what you mean—the blood, the blood, the blood of Christ, it would wash it all away and would keep washing any new dark stains away.”
From Arizona a man called to ask me a question about the atoning work of Christ. It was with joy that we visited about our so great salvation. He asked when the sufferings of Christ began. He had been taught that the wrath of the Father was poured out on Jesus beginning in the Garden of Gethsemane.
I shared that my own understanding of the atonement was that the spiritual sufferings of the Lord in judgment did not begin until He was put on the Cross. Only then was the wrath of the Father for the sins of the elect poured out on Christ. The cross is central to Christian theology, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18).
It is at the Cross we learn the hatred the Father has for sin. In judging sin, the cross becomes a symbol of God’s heartbreak over a world that has gone astray.
It is at the Cross we learn about the love of Christ. The love of Christ hath a height without a top, a depth without a bottom, a length without an end and a breadth without a limit.
The love of man can and does end, but the love of Christ will never end. The love of Christ can be trusted for it will never let the heart go. It has been said that “A love that will not bear all, care for all, share all, is not love at all.” There is wisdom in that observation. The songwriter said,
“Jesus paid it all.
All to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow.”
It is possible to forget what Christ has done for the heart when He was lifted up at Calvary. It is important to remember. Jesus knew how easy it would be to forget the great work of redemption, and so He instituted a memorial service to that effect. In the act of taking communion the voice of the Master can be heard saying to the church, “Think of your own sins, and you will be more understanding of the sins of others. Remember that I came into the world, not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
A person can know if they have truly repented if their whole life is given over to feeling sorrow for personal sins, instead of finding cause to condemn others. The Protestant Reformation was launched on this very point. On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed on the Church door of Wittenberg a document known as the 95 Thesis. The first point reads, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”
What does it mean to repent?
Repentance involves brokenness over sin. I read a fable once that had a good lesson. The narrative represented our heavenly Father as telling a man, if he would bring up to the gate of heaven the most precious thing that could be found in this world, it would gain his admittance into heaven.
“Then I am sure of heaven,” he said.
“I know what the most precious thing in the world is.” He went to a mint where the best specimens of gold could be found and, obtaining the purest piece possible, flew up to the gates of pearl, sure that heaven would be opened to him, but found the gates closed and bolted against him. He was told that was not the most precious thing; that their streets are paved with gold, as if it were transparent glass. He came again.
This time he obtained the most exquisitely beautiful specimen of jewelry; nothing richer or more beautiful on earth of its kind. He carried this up, but found the door still shut against him. He was told that no one used jewelry there. It was really of no value in heaven. He must go again. This time he was walking on the beach, under the shade of beautiful trees, thinking over what that most precious thing could be, when his attention was attracted to a beautiful little child lying on the grass under the shade of these trees, with its innocent face upturned towards heaven, in a sweet sleep.
Just then a robber came to this little child, and stood over it for a moment, apparently in deep thoughtfulness, gazing on its innocent face, the child unconscious of any danger. The robber, reviewing his own life in his guilt and wickedness, and contrasting it with the innocence of that little child, drew a deep sigh of regret and sorrow over his life of sin, when a tear of penitence dropped from his eye.
The man in search of earth’s most precious thing, caught this tear, and flew up to heavens gate with it, when he found the gates thrown wide open to him, with a hearty welcome from the heavenly ones, saying: “Yes, you have brought the most precious thing that can be found on earth the Tear of Repentance.”
As precious as the Tear of Repentance is, it is a gift of God, for repentance is not natural to the human heart. Perhaps God will grant many Tears of Repentance. We can hope for His mercy for Jesus said, “If I be lifted up I will draw all men to me.” In the drawing of souls the heart is made tender at the sight of such a lovely Substitute.
Those who have been to the cross, those who live in the shadow of the Cross, those who have been shown great mercy want to show mercy to others. It is the nature of repentance. The heart that is weary in well doing, the heart that sees only evil in others, the heart that finds no impulse to show grace, is the heart that has not yet known saving grace, for it has not yet been drawn to Calvary.
The heart that has been drawn to Calvary is the heart that comprehends why Jesus died. He died for sinners. He died for me, the sinner. The question comes, “Are you among those whom the Lord had in mind when He said, “if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me”? Those who have truly been drawn to Christ will show compelling evidence of that divine drawing for they will linger at Calvary.