“We Are Marching To Pretoria!” (John 12:32-33)

As a young child growing up in the 1960’s, we sang many folk songs in school. One catchy tune remains with me today, “We Are Marching to Pretoria!” A jaunty melody mated with simple lyrics, a great formula for success with kids! Only many years later did I research the meaning of the song. It was sung by British soldiers as they marched into the city of Pretoria to capture it during the Boer Wars of the early 1900’s. For inexplicable reasons, it later became a popular American folk song, weaving its way into the curriculum of songs in many schools. Political correctness had not yet emerged in the American consciousness.


When I first became a Christian in the early 1980’s, I learned many popular Christian songs. One in particular, “Lift Jesus Higher” was very popular and resonated with me. Its lyrics included the following lines…


Lift Jesus Higher!

Lift Jesus Higher!

Lift Him up for the world to see!

He said, “If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto Me!”


It is a catchy melody with lyrics that encouraged participation. It appeared to praise and exalt Jesus Christ, but what is the true message?


“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 Christ lived a sinless life, the only one who ever did this. He lived His life in complete obedience to God, His Father. Jesus was led to the Cross and suffered a horrific and painful execution. He was lifted up on the Cross, mocked by the Jewish leaders and Romans, and even cursed by the two other thieves who were crucified next to Him. Before He was arrested, He spoke these words to His followers, as recorded in the Gospel of John. These words are the basis for the lyrics of the song, Lift Jesus Higher. It quotes Jesus prophesying His humiliating death but also acknowledging the promise of the Resurrection. Although the Resurrection could not have occurred without the Cross, the Crucifixion is not an event that should elicit joyful singing. Even the four Gospels draw a solemn veil over the event, not delving into the gruesome details.


I frequently lapse in my musical discernment by singing or performing contemporary songs with clever lyrics without stopping to ponder the true meaning. I become enamored with the music and overlook the message. God, by His grace and mercy, continues to reorient my priorities and thought life to be in line with His directives and values. I have a very long journey ahead but someday, I will be completely sanctified and perfected in the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.


Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.



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