DYING to Live

I love re-reading a well-known passage of Scripture and noticing something new.  Has that ever happened to you?  It happened most recently reading through the Palm Sunday passages in the four gospels.  Normally I’ve stopped at the “end of the story” but this time I just kept reading.  And in so doing, I rediscovered a beautiful passage in John that often gets overlooked during Holy Week because it doesn’t fit into our Palm Sunday – Maundy Thursday – Good Friday – Easter Morning services.

But, it’s a passage that may be, outside of the empty tomb verses, one of the most meaningful passages from Jesus’ final pre-crucifixion week.  Take a look:

Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival.  They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.”  Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.  John 12:20-26

I’ve heard it said that you can count how many seeds are in an apple, but you can’t count how many apples are in a seed.  It’s a powerful thought.  None of us know the potential impact our lives can have on the multitudes of individuals with which we share life.

Tonight for dinner we had apples, and while cleaning up, I came across several apple seeds dropped on the counter and on the floor.  No matter how long I leave those seeds there (if I could even put up with the mess), they won’t grow into hearty apple trees.  Seeds left in the open air, even in the “optimal” conditions of bright sunlight, don’t grow into trees.  They must instead be buried deep underground, forgotten, and left in dark obscurity.

They must die in order to live.

As dramatic and undesirable as that necessity may sound, dying in order to live doesn’t just guarantee the seed’s life.  It multiplies its life.  It expands life exponentially.  It creates math equations that defy logic and expectation.

seed + death = innumerable life

1 + (-1) = ∞

That’s crazy math.  That’s a math sentence that shouldn’t be true, but it is.

Jesus embodies this same “crazy math” principle, and refers to its truth in John 12.  He had to die to bring about life – but not just His own life.  Our life.

We too must die in order to live.  We must die to ourselves.  To our false self.  To our selfish priorities and agendas.  To our desire to control and coerce.  To being the center of our own universe.

Just like the apple seed and the wheat kernel that must die in order to live, so are our lives.  When we admit our needs, submit our control, turn over our reins and die to our ourselves.  Only then can we fully live.  And just like a wheat kernel producing many seeds, an apple seed producing many apples, and Jesus’ death leading to eternal life, our dying makes possible the greatest benefits and impact – not just for ourselves, but innumerable others.

What does this look like in your own life?  How must you die in order to live this Holy Week, and beyond?  What in your life must you bury deep underground, forget and leave in dark obscurity?

As you consider your own answers to these questions, do so with trust and faith that by so doing, true life will be made possible.  Life will be multiplied and exponentially expanded.  It happens in nature.  It happened with Jesus.  Now may it happen with you.