"But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." (John 12:32)

This verse has been grossly mistranslated and misinterpreted.

What Jesus really said here is significantly different than the translation of this verse indicates. Does this translation even make sense? If so, why, after Jesus left the planet some two thousand years ago, are billions of men still here, if "all men" were "drawn" up to Jesus as he was "lifted up from the earth."

And if being "drawn" to Jesus is being used metaphorically, as in being attracted to him, this also is not true, as so many billions of people throughout the world over the past two thousand years have not even heard Jesus' teachings, and many who have, have rejected Jesus' teachings. So "all men" being "drawn" to Jesus is a nonsensical statement. That's because Jesus did not say it.

The reality of this verse can be understood by studying the Greek carefully:

The first clue to Jesus' real statement comes from the Greek word ἐάν (ean). This does not mean "when" as translated here. It means "if" or "in case" according to the lexicon and typical use of Greek. It is a word that clearly communicates uncertainty and the possible connection between two events. "If" and "when" are two completely different words and concepts.

Next, the Greek word ὑψόω (hypsoō) does not mean "lifted up" as translated here. It means to be "exalted" or put on a pedestal: "to exalt, to raise to dignity, honor and happiness" according to the lexicon. To translate this to being physically lifted up form the earth like some kind of elevator is to see Jesus and the situation on one dimension - physically. It is seeing Jesus without any vision, in other words.

The Greek word ἐκ (ek) can certainly mean "from," but it can also mean "by." The most appropriate use here is "by" - see below.

The Greek word γῆ (gē) can mean "arable land," "the ground," "land," "the earth as a whole," and "the inhabited earth, the abode of men and animals" according to the lexicon. Is Jesus referring to physical land here? The land cannot exalt anyone. Rather, Jesus is referring to the physical world - as he referred to in his previous statement, when he talked about the "prince of this world." He is talking about the "world" as someone might say, "He was the best in the world." In the statement, "he was the best in the world," we are not talking about the "world" as physical land. We are talking about "world" as the populace of the world.

What Jesus is talking about is the possibility of his being exalted by the populace of the world. He is saying:
"If I am exalted by the world."
The reason for the "if" here is that Jesus is seeing how most of the population - including the ecclesiastical Jewish temple priests and Romans - has rejected his teachings, even to the point where some were plotting for his execution. Thus, while he was being exalted by some of his followers in Jerusalem while he was there, being "exalted by the world" was a different matter. This is why the word "if" is so important to Jesus' statement.

The Greek word πᾶς (pas) here is being translated to "all men." Where does this come from? πᾶς can certainly mean "everyone," but also "all things," "the whole," "all" and collectively, "some of all types." In other words, "everyone and everything." Let's look at the word "draw" in this connection:

The Greek word ἕλκω (helkō) is correctly translated to "draw," but the usage is not correct. The usage makes it look like Jesus is some sort of magnet that physically attaches people to him as he is "lifted up." Rather, the correct usage indicates inclusion, or to bring along. Jesus is saying that if he were to be exalted by the world, everyone and everything would also become exalted.

The Greek word πρός (pros) here is being translated here to "with," but it also means, first and foremost, "to the advantage of." It can also mean "at," "near," or "by." But "to the advantage of" is its primary meaning, and this begins to clarify Jesus' statement.

The Greek word ἐμαυτοῦ (emautou) does mean "I, me, myself" as the translation uses, but it is important that the previous word is better translated to "with," and as such, the best use of this word would be "me," as in "with me."

The concept of Jesus saying "when" he is "lifted up from the earth," he will "will draw all men to myself" is completely missing the point of Jesus' statement. Jesus was not making himself out to be this big magnet-man - like some kind of super-hero. He saw himself as God's humble servant, and the servant of humanity. He sought not to rule over people, but to help others come to the platform of loving and serving the Supreme Being - whom Jesus also loved and served.

Jesus wanted everyone to come to this point, not just himself. Therefore, he wanted to bring everyone along with him. He wanted everyone to love and serve God, and be exalted - spiritually.

So Jesus was utilizing the word "exalted" as a double entendre - a word with two meanings. While he was referring to it as being "exalted" by others - or being praised and glorified by others - he was also using it in the context of "spiritual exaltation," or being raised to the platform of spiritual grace - becoming one of God's humble loving servants - as Jesus was.

Jesus said, just before this, that "Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out." (John 12:31). While the interpretation of that verse has been twisted by ecclesiastical sectarian teachers (see commentary with this verse), we can see, with this new translation of this verse, how the two statements are connected. If the world were to exalt Jesus, then those in the world would become exalted - spiritually exalted - with him; and "the prince of this world" - self-centeredness - "will be driven out."

The physical world is a perverted reflection of the spiritual world. In the spiritual world, everyone loves and serves God, and loves and serves each other with respect to their loving relationship with God. In the physical world, we love ourselves. We serve ourselves. We strive to make ourselves happy, typically at the expense of others. 

This is called greed and self-centeredness. We are each trying to become exalted. We want fame and fortune, and all the goodies that come with them. This is diametrically opposed to the spiritual world, where everyone wants to exalt the Supreme Being and His care-givers: Which makes them spiritually exalted.

Should everyone in the physical world suddenly decide to exalt the Supreme Being - by glorifying Him and His loving servants - those who populated the world (who are glorifying God and His loving servants) would become spiritually purified. We would all become ready to return home to the spiritual world after the death of our physical bodies.

This is Jesus' dream. While not likely (as he did use the word "if"), Jesus certainly hoped that everyone would sincerely hear and follow his teachings, because he knew that by following his teachings, we can become spiritually purified - and spiritually exalted. And what, according to Jesus, were his most important teachings?
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matt. 22:37-40)

(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Gospel of John without sectarian institutional influence, see the Devotional Translation  - translated from the original Greek texts.)