Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, 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. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:23-25)
Jesus presents to us a precious truth: In the spiritual realm, glorification follows death–the crown follows the cross. In Christ, death is the means of entry into glory. Jesus fleshed this truth out and as His followers we are directed to do the same.
What is actually meant by these confusing statements? Seriously, are we to die to be glorified? Are we to be looking for a tree for our crucifixion? Figuratively, the answer is yes. Remember, Christ went to the cross before going to the throne. Paul clearly spells out in Philippians the order and humility of Christ’s life and beckons us to the same high calling:
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)
In the incarnation, Christ willingly surrendered His right to manifest Himself visibly as the God of all splendor and glory. This set an example of humility before honor. We fight humility with everything that we have! There is something about humility and meekness that we perceive as weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Christ-like humility and meekness exemplify great strength and power under control–a willing relinquishing of rights for a higher purpose.
Jesus repeatedly told His disciples:
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:23-25)
“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35)
-1 John 2:15-17
When we selflessly and lovingly obey our Lord Jesus, the overflow of the Holy Spirit will flow through our life into the lives of others around us–often times without our awareness–because behind our obedience is the reality of almighty God. This is the whole point in denying self–our actions point to the power of Jesus. The daily crosses we are called to bear should be considered for the harvest they will bring. Our Lord considered the joy His actions would produce–bringing many to glory:
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. (Hebrews 2:9-11)
This whole order of things was just as shocking to His disciples as it is to His followers today. They were expecting an earthly kingdom established and governed by Jesus. Excited by His triumphal entry into Jerusalem their desire for an earthly kingdom was fanned into full blaze. Jesus was well aware that they were expecting a glorious kingdom to be immediately established where they would have high places of authority and power.
Take It to Heart
We often have trouble realizing that it is not all about us–our ease, our comfort, our wants, our pleasures. The focus of the believer in Jesus Christ is to be on Him–willingly emptying ourselves of selfish ambitions and vain conceits–crucifying the flesh with its passions and desires–in order that the fullness of the Holy Spirit may be made manifest in us.
“Before we can pray ‘Thy kingdom come,’ we must be willing to pray, ‘My kingdom go.’” (Alan Redpath)