“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop. The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me. Where I am, there my servant also will be. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” –John 12: 23-26
The call to die actually appears in all four Gospels with some Gospels recording multiple accounts (Matthew 10:38-39; 16:24-25, Mark 8:34-35, Luke 9:23-24; 14:25-27).
Clearly, Jesus wants his followers to know something.
In John’s account, Jesus first uses the illustration of a grain of wheat to allude to his death and eventual resurrection. When someone plants a seed or a grain, the seed will break open and die, allowing the plant inside to take root, grow, and produce a crop. In the end, there no longer remains any resemblance of a seed, but only the crop. Jesus’ illustration shows us that life comes by death. Jesus is the ultimate grain, one that would die and then resurrect, bearing much fruit because without Him dying, there is no hope for us. His death allows people to be reconciled to a just God, the ultimate “crop”.
This illustration, though, is two-fold. Jesus isn’t alluding to his death only; he is also stating that the one who follows Him must die as well. As those whom God has called to be disciples who make disciples, we cannot fulfill our God-given commission without first dying to self. It would be rather arrogant to think that we don’t have to lay it all down for the sake of others, when our very Savior had to lay everything down for our sake. Jesus very plainly states that this self-death manifests itself in both losing and hating our lives. Many tend to categorize this death as letting go of obviously sinful things, but death kills all. We would be foolish to not consider what good things need to be lost and hated for the cause of the King, and for the sake of others.
I believe that God certainly wants to use our talents, gifts, and passions for His glory, but we must re-visit this fundamental truth everyday if we want our lives to produce a “large crop”. There is too much at stake for us to not lose our lives in the advancement of Jesus’ kingdom. Our deaths will not only produce life in us; they’ll also bear the crops that produce life in others.