“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains alone; but if it dies it bears much fruit. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25)
Jesus preached the anti-prosperity gospel of modern American evangelicalism. He also would have had no part in the modern psyscho-babble self-esteem feel goody shtick of Dr. Phil wannabe pastors.
The immediate context of this verse shows Jesus speaking to the disciples towards the closing of His earthly ministry. When the Greeks came to seek him (v 21) He knew the end was near for Him, as this signaled a final chapter to his public ministry to the Jews (v 23). He could have no ministry to the Gentiles until He died as a sin offering for them, as an imperishable seed that would bear much eternal fruit.
What a curious and shocking message this would have been to the inquiring Greeks. If they sought Jesus simply as another Caesar, with similar royal pomp and ambitious military strategy, they were sadly mistaken. For the first time and ever since, this was a Kingdom that would be invincibly advanced not by protecting the King, but by the murder of the King.
The Lord they were seeking came to carry a cross, not a crown. He was a Servant who would be subject to a terrifying crucifixion, not a coronation.
Such biblical paradox has been too much of a stumbling block to bear for many a modern Greek inquirer.
If that wasn’t disturbing enough look at how Jesus applies this message to his hearers. “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in the world will keep it for eternal life.” Or in other words, Jesus said, “If you claim Me, your life will look my life.”
The follower of Christ, the “Christian”, must hate his life “in this world.” This is not a call to some type of introspective self-centered self loathing. This is a call to bury and hold a funeral for one’s inherent love for the world and its possessions, pleasures, riches and rewards. Even good things may stand in the way of the soul’s prosperity (true biblical prosperity). They must be counted as a hated enemy for the sake of the love of God. The man who loses everything gains more than everything.
The world has been “crucified to me and I to the world” (Gal 6:14). The world system is dead. It has no power over me. It no longer has the right to fascinate me with its temporal trappings. How does a dead man respond to a dead world? True, prosperous, eternal life is found in the answer.
As JC Ryle once wrote:” The way of self-crucifixion and sanctification may seem foolishness and wasteful to the world, just as burying good seed seems wasteful to the child and the fool. But there never lived the man who did not find that, by sowing to the Spirit, he reaped life everlasting.”
Maybe a more accurate modern Christian moniker would be: “God loves you and has an agonizing plan for you life.”
It was the life Dietrich Bonhoeffer alluded to when he said, “When Jesus calls a man, he bids him come and die.” It was the life of the early Christian dissenters of Roman Paganism, the early Protestant rebellion against Roman legalism, and now it is the life of the current non Western underground church world-wide.
Jesus unequivocally promised us two things: Eternal life and a Cross.
Brothers and sisters, what more do we need?
What more do we want?
What more do we have?