Gospel of John 12: 20-26 (NIV)
20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.”
Jesus has presented a two-sentence parable (verse 24). Using an example from the plant world, as he did with the parable of the sower (Matthew 13: 3-8, Mark 4: 3-8, Luke 8: 5-8), he demonstrated how, for multiplying growth to occur, the source of that growth must be sacrificed. His parable was apt in describing not only his own life but also in describing what is expected of all who would follow him.
He knew that the hour had come for him to be glorified. Being lifted up on the cross was not in any way glorious but it was the only means by which his mission, given him by the Father, could be accomplished. Being raised from death was glorious; it was a vindication of his Father’s will and a defeat for Satan. Being taken to the Father in his ascension was the ultimate glorification of the Son of Man – until he returns in glory!
The grain of wheat which has to fall to the ground and die refers not only to Jesus but also to us who believe in him. Self is sacrificed for the greater good. Sacrifice for the followers of Jesus need not necessarily mean that all must endure a premature and cruel death. It can refer just as much to the willingness to forego the gloss of the present age in order to live upright lives as Christ-focussed examples to others. The sacrifice Jesus referred to in verse 25 is a willingness to love others ahead of self, to seek the common good, to proclaim the Christ who died, is risen and has ascended in glory, to a world that prefers to ignore this call to faithfulness and to Godly living.
Hating life in this world is not a reference to a desire for self-pity or self-harm. The contrast of extremes, love and hate, emphasises the seriousness with which Jesus regards his summons to us to follow him. The obedience he calls for is not to be lukewarm, dependent on our whims and on whether we continue to feel comfortable while doing what he requires of us. Total obedience requires the servant to be wherever Jesus happens to be, hanging on a cross or rejoicing in the Father’s presence.
Are you willing to be that grain of wheat, capable of bringing forth a crop but only if you yourself no longer remain in the mould of this world?
Find more posts from the Rev Peter Rose at http://pcfchaplain.wordpress.com.