Leadership often comes in one of two forms. There is the one who leads from the front. They set the agenda, break new ground, call others to come after them and believe in them whatever they say. They are the not so much glory hunters as the glory grabbers. They win awards, have an adoring public, love the limelight and are stand out different. Then there are the crowd pleasers. They do what the masses want, banking on the principle that if you give them what they want then they will follow you. They need the crowd to reassure and affirm them. Two ways to try to keep on leading and winning. Then there is Jesus’ way.
When Andrew and Philip came to Jesus saying there were some Greeks who wanted to meet him, Jesus took the opportunity announce a third way to glory. Using his usual opening phrase when he wanted to emphasise something as particularly important, he said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you.’ This is always a sign that what he is about to say needs one to pause and think deeply, what are the consequences of his next utterance? Once again, Jesus cuts across the normal way of thinking. Jesus had just been heralded as the King of Israel by the fervent crowd. They would be expecting a grand gesture, a display of power, another miracle, a rallying cry. The last thing they would have expected is teaching about dying. Yet Jesus takes this moment to explain what true obedience and discipleship is about by explaining why it is that he is to die. But more than that it is the way his disciples must go.
He uses, as so often was the case, a simile from nature. ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’ John 12.24 Jesus died to his own will when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ Luke22.42 Jesus, just like a grain of wheat, was to die, be placed in the ground, and rise with new life, bringing countless more to life.
But Jesus was not just talking about himself. He was saying if you want your life to be fruitful in an eternal way then death to yourself is the only way. ‘Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honour him.’ John12.25-26 Josh Moody expresses it like this, “we cannot want what we want selfishly, for ourselves – and expect that way of life to give us true life … We must die to ourselves to live to Christ and to find real life in him.”
The challenge is applying this in practical terms to each aspect of our life. This is not a miserable sullen obedience, grudgingly offered to God. It is a joyful loving sharing in the Jesus way. If it is good enough for Christ it is good enough for me. 1 Samuel 2.30 captures God’s heart when he declares to Eli the High Priest following the despicable behaviour of his sons, ‘Far be it from me! Those who honour me I will honour, but those who despise me will be disdained.’
Have we contemplated how through the death of Jesus, God the Father has brought about such a rich harvest of righteousness?
Are we prepared to live his way so that the Lord is honoured?
ABOVE ALL by Michael W Smith Lyrics