“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside.” ~ Steven Covey
Why do you seek Jesus?
This is, I believe, the central question that is presented in today’s Gospel reading (John 12:20-33). In some ways, it’s the central question that is presented in all the Gospel.
A group of gentiles who were trying to do just that, to seek Jesus, approached the disciples and very respectfully said: “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Now in John’s Gospel, two things were starting to happen which preceded today’s passage. First, Jesus was completing many miracles, showing many great signs. The second was that he was increasingly drawing the ire of those who opposed him, generating a growing sense that he was in danger.
The gentiles approached because they likely heard about the great miracles and probably wanted to see for themselves. Jesus knew this. And so, in reply, he offered these very words:
Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
He was foreshadowing his own death, sure. But he was also doing else. He was posing to them the most fundamental question: “Why do you seek Jesus?”
Was it for the miracles, as the gentiles were doing here? Or was it for something else.
Recall that the man born blind… eventually died.
That the multitudes who were fed, did pass on.
That Lazarus, risen up from the dead by Jesus himself, did ultimately meet his earthly end.
I could go on and on… and tick through all of Jesus’ miracles…
Those miracles had a temporary… albeit dramatic… effect. But the effect was temporary… unless those who benefited from them went on to live lives that were transformed as a result of them. And that transformation is not in the gaining of sight or food or even life itself… it is the pursuit of Christ into eternity. This is salvation. And it is the only true and lasting miracle.
Also, Jesus is saying that one must die to oneself in order to ultimately gain this salvation. Now what in life could possibly ever prepare us for that?
Actually… a lot.
We die to ourselves when we decide to marry another.
We die to ourselves when we have a family.
When we love others.
When we swallow our pride and forgive.
When we serve.
When we sacrifice.
When we suffer.
When we learn from the example of Holy Thursday and do the equivalent of kneeling on the floor and washing the feet of others, making our own needs… secondary.
I am going to speak for myself: I don’t want to be the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies. I don’t much like the sound of that. But then I am reminded that there is a ‘bigger yes’. It is one that involves seeking Jesus… not simply for temporary gain… but for lasting gain. For everlasting gain.
Our faith is about the bigger yes.
Lent is about the bigger yes.
The Resurrection is about the bigger yes.
Let’s live our lives with confidence, knowing that there is a bigger yes.