A Voice in the
"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it brings forth much fruit. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it unto eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, My Father will honor him." (vs24-26)
This chapter contains so many little sub-subjects. But we will only observe a couple. In it, Jesus summarizes His ministry and message; a summary of how He was received (and rejected) by the people. It summarizes His earthly ministry to the people at large, as, the next chapter then begins His journey to the cross, and His final exhortations to His disciples. In a few days, Jesus will be crucified. The countdown has begun... the whole purpose for His coming, in a few days will be fulfilled. All His teaching, miracles and signs have led up to 'this' final week. On one hand they welcome Him with "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!" (vs13) And on the other, in spite of all the irrefutable signs with which He has authenticated Himself, "they did not believe in Him"; fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy, "Lord, who has believed our report?" (vs37-38)
As is Jesus' style, He throws out more conundrums. The people were looking at what they perceived of prophecy, thinking that Messiah would "remain forever" (vs34); but He starts talking about death. Just like today (today is nothing new), back then people did not want the 'negative' and 'depressing'. They wanted brightness, happiness, sunshine, feel-good. As long as He filled their stomachs with food, they wanted Him as their king. (6:15) That was Israel's whole lust when it came to getting their first king... someone who would do everything for them and provide for them, to "fight their battles" for them. (1Sam8:20) Isn't that what today's socialized societies are? Have the 'government' do and provide everything for us, and make our lives pleasant and safe.
But such a course of life leads to loss. Everybody is out to live safe lives, and they elect representatives to pass laws -requiring- everybody to conform to certain "safe" modes of behavior. Forget about the thousands of babies they murder daily... the government tells us to wear helmets, seatbelts, confiscates e-coli-infested meat (when people insist on having their 'blood' with meat, contrary to God's ordinance -Gen9:4, instead of -cooking- it!). Forget about "death-with-dignity" in such forms as euthanasia or doctor-assisted suicide; society claims that "life" is the most important thing... especially of "-the- CHILDREN!"
In addition, the world has this societal fetish regarding "self-esteem". Recently I was seeing some local children's programs being promoted on TV, and one of the primary benefits of the program was that, by participating, the children would learn "self-esteem". The popular TV stars or famous musicians appear on the various talk shows, proclaiming how they did things "for -me-". -I- needed/wanted... so I did this FOR ME... for which statements the audiences erupt into rounds of applause and cheers. Some women proclaim how they left their husbands, for their -own- needs and desires, and such as Oprah exclaim their affirmation with, "You go, sister girl!"
Well, what produces a pretty flower to delight the senses? What results in bountiful crops and harvest, such that many are fed? DEATH! Not the "affirmation of life". How does that bumper crop of wheat come about? By storing last year's harvest in the granary and keeping it -safe-? No. It must be planted. What happens when seed is in the ground? It gets moist. Now, if seed did not contain a germ for life, if that moistening process continued unabated, that seed would rot in the ground, and eventually there would be no more substance recognized as "seed". Thus, as it gets moist and soft, that is the beginning of death for that seed. However, if that seed does not experience that warming/moistening process, to become soft, the germ within will never be able to sprout, put down roots, and send its shoot up above the ground. That seed must be buried and begin to die, in order for it to sprout life...and produce a crop...or the pretty flower.
Notice what Jesus says, that the one who "hates his life in this world" will receive eternal life. Now please notice that this is not just a matter of "hating life". There are some cults that self-flagellate, and others that believe it is noble to walk with pebbles in their shoes (and a whole host of other things), in order to purposely suffer -physically-. Paul gives us clear understanding, "For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it.." (Eph5:29) It is not physically natural to hurt ourselves. And the proclamation that people "don't have enough self-esteem" is also a myth. The reason children are belligerent and rebellious is precisely -because- they are OVERFLOWING with -SELF-. That's the way we are born. If they are asked to do something, one of the first words a baby learns is, "NO!" The next one is, "I". "I can do it aaalll by MYSELF." No, me, my..."It's MIIIINE!!!"
No, we do not hate our existence, but we need to hate our life "IN THIS WORLD". What is in the world? Sin. (Rom5:13) "For all that is in the world; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; is not of the Father but is of the world." (1Jn2:16) Jesus is calling His hearers to "not love the world or the things of the world" (1Jn2:15)
People want to be accepted by God. How does one do that? By "serving" Jesus. How does one serve Jesus? By "following" Him. (vs26) And how and where do we follow Him? Into death.
Is death pleasant? Jesus' death certainly wasn't! Jesus' "soul [was] troubled" over the prospect. (vs27) Is death something to be shunned at all costs? Jesus asks whether He should be saved from it? Well, that was His very "purpose" in coming. In the Gospel of John, several times, Jesus' death is called His being "glorifed". (7:39, 12:16,23) Indeed, it is His impending death that will result in "every knee" bowing and proclaiming Him "Lord". (Php2:11)
What would be the result of Jesus' death? He would "draw all to [Himself]". (vs32) The "blood of bulls and goats" cannot "take away sins". (Heb10:4) They were merely a deposit, the promise, the forshadow of when Christ would come to die for sinful man. The result of His death is that mankind, both Jew and Gentile, can now be "reconciled..to God" (Eph2:16) If Jesus had not died, since sin was introduced into the world at Eden, there could never be such a thing as "Eternal Life" for any of mankind.
So now, if the one who is 'honored' by the Father is one who 'follows' Jesus, what is the nature of that following? Just as Jesus died, His followers must also die. Let's see the context: "certain Greeks" (vs20) came, wanting to see Jesus. And what does Jesus talk about when He is informed about them? Death. You want to "see" Jesus? You want to "follow" Him? You must die.
If a person is "hating" his life "in this world", how does one leave this world? this life? Through death. (No, we are not speaking of suicide! Please take this in context. Let's continue.) Jesus was always using parables, figures of speech, to illustrate. After Jesus was 'glorified', the Apostle Paul explains this in depth:
We "die to sin". (Rom6:2) When, due to family conflicts, someone says of another family member, "They are dead to me", what are they saying? (After all, that person is still living and breathing) It means that a separation has been implemented. In that person's mind and soul, the person they are repudiating is as if they no-longer-exist. They have been blotted out of the will; they are no longer recognized as 'family'.
Paul continues, regarding immersion: "..do you not know that as many of us as were immersed into Christ Jesus were immersed into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through immersion into death..." (Rom6:3-4a) This is why the pagan 'dabbing' of water on one's forehead is not correct. The 'pouring' of water, while possibly signifying being "spirit-filled", is not the same thing, of being "buried with" Christ. Some pagan religions will take large buckets of water and 'fling' the water out over everybody assembled. Again, a picture of being "spirit-filled" (with demons), perhaps; but it is not "immersion", a graphic picture of "burial", due to death.
Being so-called (charismatically) "spirit-filled" never includes "death". Well, let's take that back. Those of pentecostal/charismatic beliefs suppose that the sign of salvation is when they have become "spirit-filled". Then, as a true sign of that so-called spirit-filling, many of them become "slain" (in-the-demons). But you see: that is -backwards-. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit does not come until -after- one has been "buried with Him". The "newness of life" (with the Holy Spirit) does not come until after one has first been buried with Christ, and -then- been "raised from the dead by the glory of the Father". (Rom6:4)
Paul shows us how his discussion follows-up what Jesus is saying in John ch12. (In this case, KJV did well in retaining the correct word. NKJV and others that claim to be more "literal" have clouded the issue) Paul says, "For if we have been -PLANTED- together in the likeness of His death.." (Rom6:5) See how this carries on Jesus' discussion of the seed dying in the ground? Seed in the ground is usually "planted" there.
So... continuing on: If we were 'planted' with Jesus through immersion, then "..certainly we also shall be in resurrection". And noticing how we "follow" Jesus... "..our old man was crucified with Him.." (vs6) Paul said in another place, "I have been crucified with Christ" (Gal2:20) Just as that family member officially/legally blots a family member out of their life, so, too, "..the body of sin might be nullified, that we should no longer serve sin." (Rom6:6) Catholicism does not believe in 'divorce', but they have no problem with "annulments". There may be children from the marriage, but the annulment, as far as catholicism and the 'law' is concerned, makes it as if the marriage had 'never happened'. It never existed. When a father wishes to unblot his daughter's tarnished reputation, he will seek to get his daughter's marriage annulled.
You see, we don't actually get physically "crucified" on an actual cross, with spikes. But when we "follow" Jesus Christ, and become "immersed" into Him, God "annuls" our sin. We become "dead" to the world, and alive unto God through Jesus Christ. Thus, Paul speaks of our salvation as being "in Christ" where "old things have passed away" and everything has "become new". (2Cor5:17) Just as that daughter has the memory of her time with that man, in this world we still remember our past sins. But in a -legal- sense, that girl's reputation has been cleansed. Now, in the case of the daughter, and catholic annulments, I have a real problem with that whole concept: those children from the union "don't exist"? They certainly do! But for our finite limited minds, God uses the legal example of "annulments" to help us understand how He saves us. And when God takes away our sin, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." (Ps103:12) And "..He adds, Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." (Heb10:17)
Now, while we speak of dying and being given life with Christ, Jesus is not the ultimate end of our faith. The Ethiopian's testimony prior to being immersed was, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." (Acts8:37) While God led Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness wanderings, He did so through the pillar of cloud/fire. What did that pillar represent? Who was in that pillar? The "Angel of God". (Ex14:19) And who was that? When Israel had sinned with the calf, God then says, "..I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you.." (Ex33:3) But He says, "My Presence will go with you.." (33:14) We could do an entire study on the subject of the "Angel of God". But Paul summarizes the matter of who went with Israel, by saying "..that rock was -CHRIST-.." (1Cor10:4) While we have Jesus coming to die on the cross, to live a 'human' existence as "flesh and blood" (Heb2:14), and then die; Jesus appeared to people throughout the O.T. Jesus is the "express image of His essence". (Heb1:3) Jesus represents the -Father-.
When we believe into Jesus Christ, we are believing into the One who "sent" Jesus. (vs44) If we see Jesus, we have seen the Father. For all His grandeur as God's Son, even so, Jesus did not function on His own authority. What He spoke and taught, it was from "the Father". Jesus was obedient to the Father, as He followed the Father's "orders". (vs49) A subordinate obeying his superior. Remember that it was "God" who "sent" His Son to die. (Jn3:16) And so, what we are hearing from Jesus, comes straight from the Father, because that is what Jesus spoke. (vs50)
So now, as we "believe" into Jesus Christ, of what sort is our faith? Many of the rulers believed into Him, but due to political pressures, and knowing what would happen if they confessed their faith, they didn't. (vs42) The edict was out, and was enforced upon the blind man, given sight. If anyone confessed Jesus, they were expelled from the temple. (9:22,34) So, for political expediency, these who claimed to believe into Jesus kept mum. What was the real reason? "..they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." (vs43)
So, were they saved? It's one thing to "believe" in Jesus; even the demons believe. (Jac2:19) But it's another to "die" to self, and serve one Master. They were believing, thus claiming to 'serve' Christ. But they were also serving the "whitewashed tombs". (Mt23:27) And what did Jesus say? "..no one is able to serve two masters.." (Mt6:24)
Many today "make -CLAIMS- for Christ"; but due to their "love of the world" Scripture is quite plain, "the love of the Father is not in" them. (1Jn2:15) They are too enamored with the world, and do not wish to "upset" the world. Thus, it is obvious that they have not -died- to the world. Someone who has died has no more place in the world. Their body (corpse) just lies there, while their spirit and soul are elsewhere. If they are yet concerned about the world, their spirit and soul have not yet moved on to be with Christ. They are not saved. They do not have Eternal Life.
In the context of our observations of these rulers, understand Jesus words: "Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will also confess him before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God." (Lk12:8-9)
"..if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Rom10:9-10) If a person is loath to confess, by default-by-omission, such reticence becomes denial!
Do you want Eternal Life? Are you ready to follow Christ? Even to die with Christ? Are you ready to die to the world? Are you willing to be kicked out of your church for Christ's sake? You must be ready to say "yes" to each (all) of these questions. If you balk at, or say "no" to any of them, it is not possible for you to be saved.
"No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." (Lk9:62)