Today’s Scripture: John 12:23-28
23 Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. 25 Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. 26 Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.
27 “Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! 28 Father, bring glory to your name.”
Jesus talks a lot about his death in the Gospel of John. But he usually says “the time has not yet come.” Here in chapter 12 he’s talking about it again. Only this time he says “Now the time HAS come.” This is about to get real.
If you were a disciple of Jesus at the time you would be forgiven for having second thoughts here. Jesus starts describing how a kernel of wheat must die and be planted in the soil in order for there to be a harvest of new life. He tells the crowd that if you love your life you will lose it – but keep it for eternity. And then he tells them that if they want to serve him and be his disciples, they must follow him. Follow him where? To death.
I’m sure many of his disciples were suddenly looking for the exit off this Jesus ride.
How are we supposed to read this passage today? The chances of us being killed for our faith in Fairfax County Virginia are nil. Is Jesus asking us to move somewhere more dangerous to Christians and declare our loyalty so that we might die? No, of course not.
But he IS asking us to die.
Jesus is asking us to die to ourselves – to die to our egos, our false selves that we mistakenly think are our real selves. Jesus is asking us to follow him to a place where our “lives” are lost but our “life” begins. This feels like death because we identify with that false self – that ego self – so much. And yet, Jesus is saying here that there is something more – more real, more lasting, more true.
Richard Rohr has written that this ego shell of ours is broken by great love or great suffering. It is not something that happens overnight. But this is our work as disciples – to find our old lives planted in the dirt, cracked open, and eventually producing new life.
So if you feel like you’re buried in the dirt today – hang on. Look for new life. And remember that the new is coming.
God we admit that die to our old selves is hard. We know that ego holds on and holds on strong. Help us to continue the work of being disciples – even when it feels like we are getting buried. Remind us that new life comes from broken seeds.