DYING TO LIVE
“Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves his life will lose it, while anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.'” John 12:23-26 NIV.
Why was the arrival of a few Greek worshippers seeking Jesus the cue for Him to make this declaration? Up to this point, He kept saying, ‘Not yet; not yet.’ Greeks…Gentiles…non-Jews. What had they to do with this gear-shift in God’s time-table? Had the Father given Him a signal that would alert Him to the beginning of the process that would end in His death?
It seems that their request plunged Him into a season of sorrow that would culminate in the cross — “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”. He reassured both Himself and His followers that it was necessary for one seed to die to produce a harvest. The seed will remain fruitless and alone unless it is deposited in the ground to begin the process of reproduction. He was the seed of which God spoke when He condemned the serpent to destruction in the Garden of Eden under the heel of the woman’s seed (Genesis 3:15)
Does this mean that all His followers must suffer the same fate as He did? There is a death far more difficult and painful than even the death He died for us. Only those whose minds are deranged will take their own lives. For the rest, death comes upon us unbidden and we shrink from it as an enemy. However, there is another death which every disciple must choose or, Jesus said, we cannot be His disciples. This is the death of the “I”, the very core of our lives where we are the centre of our universe.
The Apostle Paul called it “a living sacrifice”. Every animal that was sacrificed in the Jewish ritual of shedding blood as a symbol of the debt owed to God for sin, had its head and limbs cut off and its inward parts washed. There is deep meaning in this action — the head and the limbs are offered to God — the processes of thought and action are no longer under my control but surrendered to Him and my inner parts made clean by the shed blood of His lamb.
Just as Jesus laid down His life for us, so we are called to lay down our lives to Him. Whether that means physical death or not is His choice because we are no longer in charge. We only find our true selves when we submit our lives to Him. As living seeds, we are buried with Him and our lives grow up into something that is being transformed into His likeness.
“‘Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.'” John 12:27-29 NIV.
We are privileged to eavesdrop on a conversation between Jesus and the Father. Again, we glimpse the heart of a true son. No matter what lay ahead for Him and no matter how much He shrank from the anticipated horror of it, He resolutely submitted to the Father’s will because His concern was for His Father’s glory. He would see it through regardless of the cost.
How He must have treasured the Father’s reassurance that He was right on track throughout His whole life. The Father would provide the strength for Him to complete what He had begun. As long as He kept choosing the Father’s will, He would be empowered by the Holy Spirit to fulfil it perfectly.
The same Holy Spirit that was given to Jesus is at our disposal to enable us to “die” to the relentless self that demands to drive us, and to place our lives at His feet for His glory.
“For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:13 NIV.
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.