Jesus said: “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing on My own authority, but speak just as the Father taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me. He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.”
That God became man and dwelt among us is the heart of the Christian faith. It is the central teaching of the creeds that you confess. That this took place is a great mystery; in fact, the greatest mystery of all. It brings the awe experienced every Christmastide, as you celebrate what took place in
But God making Himself visibly present among man is not unique to Christ’s Nativity. It is seen much earlier, even in the incidents surrounding the Exodus of the Hebrews from
The same God made Himself dwell among us, full of grace and truth. That is what Jesus testifies to the Pharisees and scribes in the
The Exodus people saw this in the actions done by the Lord God. Listen to what Moses reminded them: “Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and still live? Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for Himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides Him.” What was done by the Lord God demonstrated His ability, a power and might that He used to deliver His people. They were able to see Him in action and to live because of what He did.
So it was for those who witnessed Jesus. They saw the same wonders, the same great acts done by the Incarnate Lord. They heard Him speak. They saw Him heal and forgive. His actions demonstrated His nature and His mission, as Jesus testifies: “He who sent Me is with Me. He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” By hearing and seeing, people were brought to faith in Him.
What Jesus says and does is pleasing to the One who sent Him. Jesus gives that testimony about His actions. He testifies about what He does: “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing on My own authority, but speak just as the Father taught Me.” Jesus’ statement states the central act that He will accomplish. The “lifting up” that He speaks of tells of His crucifixion, His offering of Himself for the life of the world. This is what His Father, the One who sent Him, authorized Him to do. And Jesus is clear: “I do nothing on My own authority. . . . I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.”
Here you see the central tenet of your faith: God made Himself present among you, so that He could deliver and rescue you. Yet, the deliverance that He brings to you requires His own death. His death brings you life. The crucifixion is an act of total humiliation, yet it is through it that the humiliated Christ is truly exalted. For by it, He attains victory.
Recall again what Moses told the Exodus People: “Has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for Himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?” They could rightly answer: “No god has ever done so, except the Lord our God.” What the Lord did for the Hebrews in
The acts of salvation were done among mankind. People witnessed it with their eyes and ears. They believed what they saw and heard. But what Jesus accomplished in their midst is meant for you also. Remember what Moses said to the Exodus People: “Because He loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them and brought you out of Egypt with His own presence, by His great power . . . know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.” The same love and choice given to your fathers is given to you today. The acts are retold, so that you may receive the benefits and make the same confession of faith. So you have heard of the great divine acts; you have heard the voice of Jesus. “As Jesus was saying these things, many”—including you—“believed in Him,” as the Holy Spirit is carried by His words.
So for you, the lifting up of the Son of Man is the central tenet of the faith. God dwelt among you to deliver you. So you may sing with the ancient Church about the great and mighty wonder of Christ’s incarnation. That Crucified Christ is the heart of your creed: “who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.” His death is the great act through which your salvation is achieved. So you may also sing with the ancient Church: “Faithful cross, true sign of triumph / Be for all the noblest tree; / None in foliage, none in blossom, / None in fruit thine equal be; / Symbol of the world’s redemption, / For the weight that hung on thee!” For that weight is the Christ lifted up to please the Father and bring your salvation.
T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.