“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:24–25)
“Whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” What does that mean?
It means, at least, that you don’t take much thought for your life in this world. In other words, it just doesn’t matter much what happens to your life in this world.
If men speak well of you, it doesn’t matter much.
If they hate you, it doesn’t matter much.
If you have a lot of things, it doesn’t matter much.
If you have little, it doesn’t matter much.
If you are persecuted or lied about, it doesn’t matter much.
If you are famous or unheard of, it doesn’t matter much.
If you have died with Christ, these things just don’t matter much.
But Jesus’s words are even more radical. Jesus is calling us not just to endure experiences we don’t choose, but to make a choice to follow him. “If anyone serves me, he must follow me” (John 12:26). Where to? He is moving into Gethsemane and toward the cross.
Jesus is not just saying: If things go bad, don’t fret, since you have died with me anyway. He is saying: Choose to die with me. Choose to hate your life in this world the way I have chosen the cross.
This is what Jesus meant when he said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). He calls us to choose the cross. People only did one thing on a cross. They died on it. “Take up your cross,” means, “Like a grain of wheat, fall into the ground and die.” Choose it.
But why? For the sake of radical commitment to ministry: “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). I think I hear Paul saying, “It doesn’t matter what happens to me — if I can just live to the glory of God’s grace.”