“Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” – John 12:25
Jesus had just made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, riding a donkey colt through a cheering crowd who laid palm branches before Him. They were sure their Messiah had arrived to save Israel from its oppressors. Until Jesus spoke.
In John 12:23, Jesus told the crowd before Him, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Many of His followers were thrilled: “YES! It’s about time! Gather your army and drive out the Romans and set up your throne in Jerusalem! We’re behind you all the way!”
But in verse 24, Jesus lowered the boom. His idea of “being glorified” was much different than theirs: “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.” He went on to say: “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” (v. 25).
What on earth was He talking about? Jesus’ fans were ready to follow their Messiah to the death … if he went charging full-speed into a Roman garrison. But they refused to throw their lives away for a Messiah who wasn’t even going to put up a fight. It sounded like He was just planning to roll over and die.
In this passage, Jesus shares three powerful truths at the heart of our Christian faith. The decisions we make each day should be grounded in the following three truths. (Statements in quotation marks are from Scottish theologian William Barclay.)
Truth #1 (v. 24): “Only by death comes life.” As Jesus said, “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.” What is true in agriculture is equally true in the spiritual realm. The great 2nd Century church leader Tertullian famously said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” All but one of Jesus’ 12 apostles were martyred for their faith. Now, you will probably never face death or imprisonment because of your beliefs. But Christ has still called you to die. Your old selfish way of living, your old negativity, your old unforgiveness … all need to die. It’s when our old nature dies that we can really live for God.
Truth #2 (v. 25): Only by giving up our lives do we retain life. People who live for me, myself and I are usually motivated by two things: their own selfish cravings and security. Selfish people chase after pleasure and security. But Jesus calls His followers to sacrifice—even “hate”—both pleasure & security. I urge you to hate your own selfishness; hate your own laziness; hate sitting on the sidelines. Instead, LOVE giving your life away in service to Christ and others.
Truth #3 (v. 26): “Only by service comes greatness.” So many people live their lives serving one person: themselves. And at the end of their lives, there’s not much to show for it. I’m so thankful that so many Christians I know are the exact opposite of that. They live to serve Christ and others.
Earlier this month, I had the privilege of officiating the Celebration of Life for Mele Bond, a sweet lady who served at my church for more than 30 years. Mele embodied this third truth: She lived a “great” life, because she was such a “great” servant.
For many years, Mele stood at the front door of our church shaking hands and handing out bulletins to our attenders. She greeted everyone with her great big, loving smile. No one would have guessed that Mele had Multiple Sclerosis. She didn’t talk about how it affected her health. She just kept serving. About six years ago, when her legs got too weak, Mele could no longer stand and hand out bulletins. So … she sat on her walker and handed out bulletins with the same big, loving smile.
In the last three years, Mele’s MS reached a point where she was too weak to get out of bed. So, did she finally stop serving? Nope! From her bed, she crocheted beanies for family members, friends and the homeless. Whenever I visited, she had a bag of hats for me to give away. She refused to stop serving. Anyone who knew Mele would agree: She lived a GREAT life. You see, only by service comes greatness.
Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian
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