John 12:23-26 (NIV)
Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, 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. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man 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 honor the one who serves me.
Jesus was very aware that, despite the wave of popularity that He was riding, despite the kudos He had received, and even despite the rapt attention that was being paid to Him by this crowd that was currently hanging on His every word, this was not a public relations tour that He was on. Even the word that the Greek-speaking Jews who had come from so far away wanted to meet with Him could not sway Him from the reality of what He was there to do.
The glorification that many of His followers were looking for would come, but it was on the far side of a dark, pain-filled chasm, and could not be accessed without descending into that chasm and ascending on the far side. Jesus had come to Jerusalem this time specifically to be arrested, beaten, killed and buried. Yes, he would rise again as He knew very well, but not until after He had willingly gone through the other things first.
The words that Jesus spoke here would have struck the people who were listening to Him as odd, inscrutable. And they would have struck His disicples the same way, because they could not hear them in the context in which Jesus spoke them.
Jesus knew that new and expanded life could only come through death and transformation. If a person tries to keep a kernel of wheat, it will ultimately rot away. The things of the earth are not built to last forever. It is only as the kernel is buried in the ground and transformed that it will sprout and grow new kernels, many times more than what was planted.
Jesus knew that for God’s plan to go forward, He had to lay His life down, be willing to die, to be buried and, in the process, allow His body to be transformed into one that would be able to ascend into heaven and last forever. By grasping life and the fame He was experiencing right then, He could continue to gather a crowd, maybe even rise to temporary power in the hierarchy of the world, a rise that would ultimately be snuffed out by His eventual death. But if He followed God’s plan, laying His life down deliberately so that He could take it up later, His influence and the reach of the kingdom would extend to the ends of the earth and last forever.
The same was true of those who intend to follow Jesus. Those who play it safe in order to hold on to their earthly lives will ultimately lose their lives anyway, and will also lose any chance of powerfully impacting the world for the kingdom of God. But those who follow Jesus, who walk boldly forward in obedience to God’s commands and leading, even into the very jaws of death, will find abundant life on the other side of the chasm, and will have an influence for the kingdom beyond anything they could ever imagine.
Father, this is an amazing promise that we, as Your people, really need to understand and take hold of. But, at the same time, we must realize that the way to receiving the fulfillment of this promise is the way of the cross, the way of total surrender, the way of death. Ye it is also the way of glory, the way of victory, and the way to transformation and eternal life. I choose that way! Amen.