Updated: Mar 22, 2020
Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. John 12:20-26(ESV)
It was a popular mantra among believers of old (and even today’s) the saying that ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.’ Here’s a phrase first used by the great Tertullian in the book Apologeticus – a book written in defense of Christianity, seeking for equal treatment of Christians as other sects within the Roman Empire.
Tertullian’s statement appears to be a rephrase of Jesus’ words in John 12:20-26. Jesus had told his disciples, as was his pattern, unpopular truth about following him.
Some Greeks had come to see Jesus. And this was brought to Jesus’ attention by the duo of Andrew and Philip. The Lord’s response stands in stark contrast to the idea of some men desiring to see him. ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” These disciples presumably might have thought of earthly coronation as the deliverer-king Israel had longed for.
But this was not to be.
Jesus had something greater before his eyes. It was death. Yes, death! The path to this glory, he explained, was by dying.
‘Truly, truly, I say unto you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’
In a predominantly agrarian community, Jesus employed terms they were familiar with to drive home his point. Growth, multiplicity, and relevance of a grain of wheat are tied to its first dying. Without this process new life cannot emerge.
The grain had to face death and conquer it before new life burgeons. Like a grain of wheat, Jesus had to die (face and conquer death), before he could be glorified. What is this glorification? If we ignore this important truth, we lose sight of Christ’s purpose and our calling.
In the same statement, we find answer to this pivotal question. A grain of wheat which does not fall to the ground and dies, though inherently capable of multiplicity, remains alone. Though it has capacity to replicate itself in 500 grains, without first dying, it abides alone. It must first lose itself before it can find it in many more grains.
Christ’s glory is multiplying himself – divinity, character, nature, qualities etc. – in hearts of men and women, old and young, rich and poor, strong and weak, slave and free in the world. All of whom are surrendering themselves to death that God’s Kingdom might be established at every nook and corner of the world.
Today, Christ lives in the hearts of hundreds of millions of people all over the globe. Surprising as this may sound, few are they which surrender themselves to death that the excellency of God’s rich grace may fill every heart and every system everywhere.
Death is our path to living. Jesus told the disciples
‘Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.’
How dear is your life to you? We can determine whether we love our lives more when we measure our lives against obedience to God. Do you cherish this transient life more than the self-denying call to follow Jesus?
Could our reluctance to follow the path of dying the reason for the untamed appetite for worldly pleasures among Christians today? Dying to live is the principle of our faith handed down to us by God, and revealed from the very first book of the Bible.
We begin to live the moment we surrender our lives to the death-dealing, yet life-giving cross of Christ Jesus. We begin to live when Christ, not us, becomes the epicenter of our living. There’s no other path to glory, other than the one laid out by our Lord and wholly followed by fathers of faith.
“And he said to all, “if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”” – Luke 9:23
In what ways is denying of self playing out in your journey with Christ? Kindly leave your thought in the comment section.