[Jesus said,] "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. -John 12:32-33 (ESV)Jesus may have been quoting from the prophet Isaiah, who in talking about the suffering of the coming Messiah said:
Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. As many were astonished at you-- his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind-- -Isaiah 52:13-14 (ESV)Elsewhere in the Gospel of John Jesus compared His future experience of being "lifted up" on a cross to Moses lifting up a serpent on a pole in Numbers 21:4-9:
No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. -John 3:13-15 (ESV)Also see John 8:21-30 for another incident where Jesus used this "lifted up" phrase to describe his crucifixion. Anyone who read through the book of John with his eyes open and brains switched on should have understood this; it bothers me that people seem to not be paying any better attention than that. It's almost like saying "Let's crucify Jesus this morning! Hooray!" and of course that would be totally unbiblical.
I do realize that people mean "worship Jesus" when they say "lift up Jesus." And granted, there is (kind of weak) Scriptural precedence for this usage as well:
And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. -Acts 1:9 (ESV)But even if you intend "lift up" to mean "exalt," so you're saying that by "lifting Him up" you're exalting and glorifying God, giving Him an honor, then you risk taking credit for something God has already done:
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. -Philippians 2:9-11 (ESV) (italics mine)In the long run, worship comes from the heart. You can probably sing "Yankee Doodle" if you want to, and if worship is truly in your heart God would accept it. But it pays to actually know what you're talking about even as a leader of worship, and especially if you are a preacher. There are people out there who listen to you and never actually crack open an honest-to-goodness Bible; if you feed them flawed theological images, it will only lead to confusion in the end.