Dying to Live
As some Greeks approach Jesus, he breaks into a soliloquy about his mission and goals. "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified"(John 12:23). Perhaps he is thinking particularly about how his crucifixion will be the ultimate outreach to foreign people (John 12:32). The specifics aren’t clear, but Jesus focuses on the fact that his hour has come (John 12:23). It is time to die.
He expresses his thoughts by a series of paradoxes. “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”(John 12:24-25). Wheat dies to live. Loving your life means you lose it. Hating your life means you find it. Death means judgment for the world, but not for Jesus (John 12:31). For Jesus, death means success (John 12:32).
All of this seems obscure and frightening. The point is that there are higher purposes than just staying alive. If we become convinced that our survival is the most important thing, we’ll sacrifice truth, justice, love, and service for our own survival. Then we begin to add other things—I want to survive comfortably, happily, peacefully, etc. while God's priorities fall further into the background.
But when we are willing to sacrifice ourselves for our God (“hates his life,” John 12:25), we can then truly live. It is then that we achieve his purposes and find meaning whether we live or die. This is Jesus’ perspective.
All of this has application to the current global concern about the coronavirus pandemic. There are more important things than our physical survival. How we treat others, honor God, control ourselves, do good in the world, place hope and faith in Jesus, and model Christian perspectives on life matters more than whether we survive a few more years. Jesus knows he is facing death and approaches it unafraid. He will behave the same way whether he lives or dies. Disciples know that--unless Jesus returns first--they will die. With that constant awareness, we should focus attention on how we are living rather than simply on prolonging our lives. None of this means that we should be reckless with our lives or cold to those who are suffering. Rather, we serve, help, and mourn without fear--like Jesus.
Encouraging Christians to take discipleship seriously.