John 12:24-25 “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.”
Jesus spoke on this theme several times. That is hardly surprising, since He was the only person ever born for the express purpose of dying, as He Himself says in verse 27. I don’t think this means that He didn’t enjoy His daily activities. In The Visual Bible video project, the actor who portrayed Jesus in Matthew prayed a lot before he accepted the role, and the result is powerfully anointed. The most striking thing about his portrayal is that Jesus comes across as being delighted to be who He was, doing what He was doing. When He heals someone, He’s as happy as the person who gets healed! I really think that portrayal was accurately led by the Holy Spirit. God does want us to enjoy being His children, doing His work as His agents. At the same time, our life in this world is but the barest shadow of our life with God in eternity. Jesus was certainly not suicidal, and He doesn’t want us to be. However, making physical life our priority blinds us to the richness of all that God has planned and prepared for us. Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting a dear saint in the hospital. He is 85 and has severe pneumonia, and his wife and children are already planning his funeral, appropriately enough. However, the visit with him, and then with his wife and daughter in the home, was joyous and not depressing. None of us has any doubt of his eternal life, which will in no way be diminished by his physical death. As Luke quotes Jesus as saying, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24) “Taking up our cross” is indeed dying, but at the same time it is a joyous process when we are following our Lord.
This morning I was struck by the various layers of deception and misunderstanding under which we all labor. It’s not so difficult to see how others are deceived, but we fail to recognize it in ourselves. I’m tired of that! That’s one of many things I certainly won’t miss about this life. I think I could put that under the heading of “hating my life.” At the same time, I am daily presented with opportunities to serve God, to act as His agent toward those around me, and that is joy indeed. I can certainly identify with what Paul said: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” (Philippians 1:21-24) In reference to what Jesus says here, I earnestly desire the fruitfulness that comes after death, in His illustration of the grain of wheat. Recently I have been talking with several minister friends around my age who are all concerned about succession. Some, including me, have already dealt with multiple potential successors who haven’t worked out for one reason or another. Once I’m gone, I won’t have to worry about that! My focus needs to be on the reality that it’s God’s life and not mine, God’s ministry and not mine, and trust Him to do what is best for the Body of Christ and for His glory, as long as I am here and thereafter as well.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for yesterday and all it held. Thank You for what You are going to say through me on Sunday, though I currently have no idea what that will be. Help me indeed not hang onto this life, but at the same time live it fully, in joyful obedience to You, so that Your will may be done in and through me on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!