When I sit down for my quiet time with God, I sadly often let my mind wander to all kinds of distractions and fail to focus on my time with Him. In this way, I passively fight Him, turning to other things instead of to Him alone. Have you ever had someone grab their phone as soon as he heard a chime in the middle of you telling him a story? Have you talked to someone who was distracted while you were talking to her, someone who glanced away every time anyone walked or talked behind you? One time a Bible study publisher did this to me while I was giving a pitch for a Bible study I wrote. Even though he afterwards said he was interested in my book, you can believe that I didn’t want to spend much time pursuing publishing my book with him. When an acquaintance does that with me, I’m not really interested in pursuing a friendship, either. However, when I do that to God, He pursues me anyway.
“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:32). Jesus said this before He died, prophesying His cross. He was saying that if He died on the cross for our sins, He would draw everybody to Himself. First of all, this confused me when I read it because I know from other Scriptures that not everybody will come to Him. However, when I looked up the Greek word for “everybody” in this case, I found in Strong’s Dictionary that this particular word can mean “some of all types.” In view of other verses, this seems like the best definition for this word here. Jesus is saying that after the cross, He will not just draw from the Jews, His chosen people, but from all people.
Can I go into a little more Greek with you? I promise it’s for a good reason!
I find another Greek word more interesting than the last: the Greek word used in this verse for draw. As I was listening to one of my former pastors’ sermons through Vimeo, I learned that the word is from the Greek word helkō, which means (as I confirmed with Thayer’s Greek Lexicon) to draw, but as it is used in a nearby passage, John 21:6,11, it can mean something closer to drag or drag off, to draw a person forcibly and against his will or metaphorically to draw by inward power, lead, impel.
In John 21:6 and 11, it is used for when the disciples drew in or hauled in a ton of fish after Jesus told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. Those fish did not want to be caught in the net. They were wriggling and flopping and fighting to get away, as fish do when they have been caught. When the disciples caught these fish after Jesus’ instructions, they knew immediately it was Jesus raised from the dead because He had given them those seemingly nonsensical instructions before. The first time He told them to cast their net on the other side of the boat after they had tried for hours to catch fish with no results was the time some of these disciples met Jesus for the first time. That was the day they decided to drop their huge catch of fish and follow Him. What did Jesus tell them on that day? He said, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10).
On that day, Jesus compared the catching of men to the catching of fish. Going back to John 12:32: if I have the interpretation right, Jesus says He will draw men to Himself the same way men draw fish out of the water. I don’t really want to get into the Calvinism and Arminianism debate over whether those metaphorical fish want to be drawn out of the water or not, whether they choose Him because He chooses them or whether He chooses them because He knows they would choose Him. I do know, however, that many of us fight Him like those fish before He drags us into His boat.
Even when I passively fight God by not giving Him the attention He deserves or even if I actively fight Him, He draws me in. I can tell you that in my life, He does so with grace and love.
Yesterday, in answer to a prayer to make more connections at church, even after sub-par quiet times with Him, He put me on two women’s hearts at a church event. Those women went out of their way to introduce me to women they thought I should meet, to the point of bringing women across a large, busy room to see me. I was very aware of not deserving this answer to prayer, but He didn’t just answer the prayer, He flooded me with new connections.
Jesus impels us to Himself because of His cross, as he says in John, but this obvious act on God’s part even as I flop around like a fish (along with all the others He does daily) draw me forcefully to Him. I pray that God will also draw You to Himself today!