Today is Holy Tuesday. The gospel reading today reflects on conversations Jesus had around His purposes and around God’s glory. It also goes deeply into life issues. The Revised Common Lectionary reading for today is John 12:20-35. This is what verses 23-26 say in the New Revised Standard Version:
“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.’”
We’ve followed Jesus through all of Lent. We came down that mountain into the valley where there were sick folks, hurting folks, and upset folks. We followed Jesus as He continually reminded people to turn away from their understanding of how a Messiah was meant to be and to act. We followed Jesus as He kept reaching out to the poor, kept reaching out to folks in need, and kept upsetting the religious leaders.
Now we’re invited to follow Jesus as He approaches Gethsemane. We’re invited to follow as Judas betrays with a kiss. We’re invited to follow as the world stands by as Jesus is tried and convicted. We’re invited to follow Jesus up Calvary. We’re invited to watch the sky darken.
Sometimes I don’t want to follow Jesus on this path. Let’s be honest–Holy Week grows gruesome. Holy Week would be the nastiest and worst of events if it weren’t for Easter. Some years I’d like to just say “Look at the time!” before running off to make a cup of coffee until Sunday. It is beautiful, it is deep, and sometimes I would rather have a simple broth than dig into the theological beauty of Holy Week.
Still, we must follow. We must because this is Jesus we’re following. Whenever we gather around the table to share in the Lord’s Supper it is this story that we speak to each other. Whenever we see suffering in the world around us, it is this story that reminds us that God entered into human suffering. Whenever we see people claim earthly power, authority, and greatness, it is this story that enters and can inoculate us from the disease that can easily carry us away into realms where we connect earthly power with divine right. This story is foundational–we must follow.
What’s more, we must walk the same path. This story effectively changes the way that we look at the world around us and how we relate to the world around us.
Let’s say we’re rich and we’re powerful. Perhaps we’re as powerful as the President of the United States. We have wealth, riches, and an army sworn to do what we decide. How do we act? Well, let’s be honest. If we’re going to walk like Jesus, it is going to change the way we look at the world around us and change the way we act. Jesus was arrested, tried, and convicted. Jesus was executed and his words weren’t threats or screams of anger. There was painful moans, I’m certain, but the words shared were words of forgiveness and words of grace. Jesus didn’t cajole or argue. He invited criminals to paradise despite what they did. If one is to follow Jesus it changes the way you live your life, perhaps especially if you had power, riches, and followers. To follow Jesus might mean you lose your privilege only to gain eternal life.
Let’s say we’re a public school teacher. Perhaps we’re the best teacher in the world and not one parent comes to your classroom to explain your job to you. Perhaps the parents who try leave your classroom apologizing and planning to write a nice letter. Perhaps you have offers to go and lead in the most prestigious private school in nation whenever you’d like. If you’re going to walk like Jesus, it very might well change your way of life. How? Jesus willingly cared for the very people who came to “take care” of Him in the Garden. Even in the midst of being taken to suffering, Jesus stopped to heal one of the very people who came to persecute Him. The kid screaming at you in your class might be a royal pain, but what would Jesus do with this child? Would Jesus show love and kindness? Would Jesus have grace in the midst of the suffering this kid will likely inflict upon you? To follow Jesus might mean healing that kid’s ear and that act might change your life.
I think we honestly each need to follow Jesus on this journey. It isn’t a pleasant journey, but let’s be clear. Few of us live perfectly pleasant lives. If we want to learn to live out our lives well, we might need to learn to lose in order to follow Jesus. If we want to learn to live out our lives well, we might need to learn from someone who can change us. In the way of Paul, we may need to live out our own ministries in life resolving to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).
In the meantime, it is my prayer that this journey would be a blessing to you. May we all learn to follow and to let the Grain that died multiply within us.