The greatest promoter of his time was Phineas Taylor Barnum. He lived in America from 1810 to 1891 and was an American showman, businessman, and politician remembered for promoting celebrated hoaxes, and founding the Barnum and Bailey Circus (1871-2017) with James Anthony Bailey. He is supposed to have said, ‘I am a showman by profession … and all the gilding shall make nothing else of me’.1
Today, self-promotion is rampant. Entertainers, sports figures, and politicians lead the way. There are many training courses focused on doing just that. College graduates, and business people in general, concentrate on selling themselves and their skills to advanced training schools and/or business executives. In the religious realm, the Roman Catholic priest, Norman Vincent Peale, and pastor Robert Schuller taught the skill of individuals promoting themselves in their own thinking.
It is remarkable that this subject is addressed in the Bible also. However, the focus is on the Godhead engaged in graciously elevating or lifting-up some humans. Scripture’s historical and poetic books feature the life and the writings of King David. He reaches these conclusions, ‘But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head’, Ps. 3. 3. ‘He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man’, 18. 48. ‘I will extol thee, O Lord; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me’, 30. 1.
David also observed that there were certain types of individuals or groups of humans who were candidates for uplifting. He states, ‘He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill’, 113. 7.2
Self-elevation and self-promotion are practised by mankind, but not by our Lord; predictions made about His coming in the Old Testament preclude any such talk. Isaiah states, ‘He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street’, 42. 2. Henry writes that unlike when ‘great princes ride in progress or make a public entry’, our Lord was prophesied to ‘have no trumpet sounded before him nor any noisy retinue to follow him’.3
However, during His earthly ministry our Lord performed a lot of ‘lifting up’ - physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Early in His earthly ministry, He physically raised Peter’s mother-in-law up, who immediately ministered to the Lord, Luke 4. 38, 39.
When He and Peter, James, and John descended from the mountain where He was transfigured, He was confronted with a difficult case. The rest of the disciples had unsuccessfully attempted to cast from a boy a deaf and dumb (evil) spirit who had attempted to destroy him by casting him into fires or deep water. ‘When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him. And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose’, Mark 9. 25-27. However, nothing compared with the raising of the dead. Reflect on His ministry with the widow’s son in Nain or that with His friend Lazarus.
Finally, recall our Lord’s intention to raise up those whom the Father has given Him, ‘And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day … No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day … Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day’, John 6. 39, 44, 54.
Sadly, it was prophesied by King David that a close companion of the Son of David would betray Him, ‘Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me’, Ps. 41. 9. John chapter 13 verse 18 is the fulfilment. Equally, our Lord was not ‘caught unawares’ by His being ‘lifted up’. He shared with Nicodemus the analogy with Moses’ raising up the snake in the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land, John 3. 14. He also stated the ultimate purpose and significance of His being thus raised, ‘And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me’, John 12. 32.
However, the Father’s sovereign purpose was to have His Son raised from the dead, ascended to heaven, and highly exalted and seated in glory at His right hand, Phil. 2. 9. Ephesians chapter 2 verses 4 to 6 state the ultimate uplifting that the Father had in mind for believers, ‘But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus’.
See also Ps. 145. 14; 147. 6.
Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Scriptures, e-sword resource.