A New Take on John 12:23-25
Jesus knew the end was near. He was not naive about this. He knew it and his followers knew it. He had defied too many men in power by sharing God’s vision for truth and justice. Inevitably he would be arrested and crucified. In those times, everyone knew what happened to those who went too far. Law and order would do its thing.
Yet Jesus didn’t plan an escape route or try to re-brand. Instead, he said to his followers, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” By saying that he offered hope.
Then he told his followers (who understood agriculture) that a seed cannot germinate unless it falls to the ground. Only then will it grow, develop roots and a tall stem with many new kernels. If many of these new kernels die and enter the soil, then an entire field of wheat is possible. And soon many fields are possible. This is both regenerative and sustainable, and a lot of bread can be made from this work. Son of Man glorified.
So Jesus knew he had to die in order for God’s vision for truth and justice to spread. And that is a powerful message all by itself. Easy to like and share that news! So why couldn’t Jesus just stop right there! Instead, he added: “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Wait, what? Did Jesus just tell me to hate my life?
I have always struggled with this scripture reading. Hating your life simply isn’t socially acceptable. After all, people will not like me unless I am (enthusiastically) lovin’ life!! Imagine if I started saying that I hate life at office parties or church socials. Before long I would be all alone. Besides, God did create this earth and all these people. So if I hate life, doesn’t that mean I’m ungrateful?
On the other hand, the recent past has really made life in this world easy to hate. We have been surrounded by a toxic virus, toxic media, toxic masculinity, toxic capitalism. This has poisoned many relationships. It has poisoned our culture. Truth and justice are twisted into something unrecognizable and I do not like what I see. So if I love life, doesn’t that mean I’m complicit?
Ultimately, I cannot forget that Jesus commanded me to love God and my neighbor. Live a life of love. And Jesus did not despair when facing torture and death. Instead, he looked forward to seeing God's vision realized. Live a life of hope. And Jesus did not escape or re-brand to appease those in power. So, I will work harder to let go of those things in my life that offer an escape. And I will identify those who hold power over me, whoever they are, and not re-brand myself in order to please them. I am a follower of Jesus, a sharer of God's vision, and a product of many seeds.