Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
“The world behind me, the cross before me, no turning back, no turning back.” Do you remember these words from the old gospel song “I have decided to follow Jesus?” They ring clear in my mind when I read this moment when some Greeks came to see Jesus. Jesus makes it clear that to follow him means going to the cross to die, there was no turning back for him.
As we near the end of Lent when Jesus is crucified just outside of Jerusalem, we are warned by Jesus that his earthly journey will end on a cross, and if we follow him we must die to ourselves too. I am not sure if the visit from the Greeks is what triggered Jesus to talk about his death that was coming, but at any rate, he seemed to be thinking and declaring that his death on the cross was for the whole world, people of all races and creeds. His death was not limited to bringing salvation just to the Jews.
This leads us to consider what we are willing to do to serve Jesus. If it means we will die for Jesus if we follow him to the cross, are we willing to do that? One thing is for certain, we must die to ourselves in order to live for him. The point of following Jesus isn’t just faith, or comfort, or satisfying spiritual desires. No, I think Jesus is making it clear that the point of following him is that we will be drawn more deeply into the kingdom of God through giving of ourselves for others, service to others, and sacrifice of our own personal preferences or desires on behalf of those around us. Jesus comes to establish God’s strength through complete vulnerability.
Following Jesus means that we will experience God’s power through what appears weak in the eyes of the world, and God’s justice comes through love, mercy, and forgiveness. So Jesus calls all who would follow him to the very same kind of life and love that he demonstrated in his life, death, and resurrection. It calls for us to become vulnerable in ways that are not our natural human inclinations. Are we willing to make our whole lives vulnerable to the self-sacrifice that comes through God’s love of all people? It does call for dying, we must die to self so that the love of God can grow in and through us.
- How are you dying to self these days?
- How is the love of God sowing the fruit of love in others through you?
- Can you sing the lyrics of “The world behind me, the cross before me, no turning back, no turning back.” and truly mean it?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.