Summary: How does selfishness destroy us? How does selflessness save us? How does truly living only begin when the seed of selfishness dies?
How does selfishness destroy us? How does selflessness save us? How does truly living only begin when the seed of selfishness dies?
Purpose: Jesus taught that self-preservation is self-destructive and self-sacrifice is really living.
Plan: Let’s examine the passage where Jesus predicts his death in John 12:20-33 and his example for us.
John 12:23 The Paradox of Glory through Shame
In John 12:23 Jesus announced, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.” Glory means magnified, honored. Yet Jesus must take a dark path before His return to glory in Heaven and His message is accepted worldwide. Jesus does not focus on the pain of the cross, but the resurrection. We too remember Good Friday, but focus on Easter, Resurrection Sunday. Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). Paul, following Jesus’ example, wrote, “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
John 12:24 The Germination Miracle
In John 12:24 Jesus explains that “unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” Germination is a miracle of creation that turns a dormant seed into a growing plant. Seeds thousands of years old have germinated. Up to a certain point, germination even brings the miracle of DNA repair with up to a half million DNA modifications per healthy cell per day. The paradox of glory through shame is also a miracle. On the cross the greatest reputation in the world was built. The greatest dishonor produced the greatest honor. Self-promotion brings shame. Self-sacrifice brings glory.
Example: Technological Change
“If [a grain of wheat] dies it produces much grain.” Irrelevant church traditions must die. The message of the Gospel never changes, but culture does. Typewriters, cassette tapes, rotary phones and vacuum tube radios have come and gone. They have all died and most companies that made them are gone. Companies that refused to change and keep up with new technology have died. Communication remains, but the means changes. Companies that survive are willing to change. Those that do not, die. Churches must be willing to let old traditions die and change to make the unchanging Gospel relevant to new generations. Self-sacrifice is real life. A seed dies and life begins.
John 12:25 Qualification for Leadership
A difficult saying of Jesus is John 12:25. “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Love that which is mortal and lose that which is immortal. Surrender the mortal and gain the eternal. Give up that which is dying in order to gain that which will never die. Be selfish and lose our lives; be selfless and gain eternal life. A selfish member of the herd takes to preserve himself, damages the herd and will die alone. One who contributes to the wellbeing of the whole herd preserves the herd and his own life.
Example: Easter Island
“He who loves his life will lose it.” An ecological disaster took place on Easter Island before European discovery. It was originally a very advanced civilization with such ease of growing food that there was plenty of time for astronomy and building large stone statues. Something caused a Pacific paradise to degenerate into deforestation, cannibalism and poverty. Fishing ceased because there were no materials to build canoes or nets. A state of permanent warfare existed. Preserving the self for a day, they lost sight of the sacrifice it took to preserve their society for the long term. This is the same fault of modern civilization and its damage to the environment.
John 12:26 Tourists or Pilgrims
In John 12:26 Jesus says, “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also.” Do we attend church as tourists or pilgrims? Tourists go out of curiosity, but not to follow Jesus. Pilgrims go to follow Him. The tourist leaves church loving their life in this world and its sins. The pilgrim leaves church loving this world even less and loving Christ all the more. The pilgrim realizes that all these are cheap substitutes for following Christ. Jesus said, “If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” The honor of this world is temporary. The honor of heaven lasts forever.
John 12:31-32 Judgment Now
In John 12:31-32 Jesus says, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” Who rules the Godless? Jews believed the devil ruled other nations. Jesus called the devil the Pharisees’ father (John 8:44-45). The world is already condemned and its ruler cast out. Jesus later revealed that, “the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Revelation 12:9)