To read the texts click on the texts: Num21:4-9; Jn 8:21-30
The words which begin today’s text continue the theme of Jesus’ departure begun in 8:14. Here, it is his death, resurrection and ascension which will be the focus. Though God has revealed himself in Jesus, the Jewish leaders have refused to recognize him. This is the sin in which they will die. When Jesus speaks of his departure, he is misunderstood. The Jewish leaders think of suicide, but Jesus speaks of laying down his life of his own accord for the salvation of all. The reason why they misunderstand is because they and Jesus stand on opposite sides. They are from below and of this world, Jesus is from above and not of this world. If they want to change their position, they can only do so by recognizing in Jesus, God. The leaders are not able to do this and show that they have completely misunderstood Jesus in the question they ask. Jesus affirms that he has told them from the beginning who he is. He is the one sent by God and it is God who affirms and confirms him.
When they “lift up” Jesus on the Cross (which can also be translated as “exalt” and so mean resurrection and ascension) then they will recognize him. This statement of being “lifted up” or “exalted’ is the second of the three such statements in the Gospel of John. The first appears in 3:14 and the third in 12:32-34. In these two cases because of the use of the passive voice, the suggestion is that God will do the exalting. It is only here that the responsibility for the “lifting up” is thrust on the people. Thus, even as they crucify him, they will also exalt him and in this act recognize him as the one who is. Even when on the cross Jesus will not be alone because the Father will be with him.
Jesus’ words touch the hearts of many who hear him and they come to believe.
Jesus’ coming into the world was not primarily to die but to save. Yet, if this salvation could only be achieved through his death on a cross, then so be it. Jesus was willing for it if this was to be the only way. He was also aware that because of his faith, trust and confidence in the Father that his crucifixion or being lifted up on the cross would also be his resurrection and ascension, his being exalted. Even as he is crucified, the very ones who crucify him realize that what they have done is nailed love incarnate to the cross. This love accepts, forgives and continues to love even from the cross.