Excitement had risen. It always did as Passover approached. But then the first unexpected turn of events occurred. When some Greeks had come requesting to see Jesus, Jesus had begun to talk in earnest about dying. With trepidation Jesus described being lifted up, indicating the type of death he would suffer.
His disciples did not expect this. When something surprises us we can remain aloof, curious or even shocked if that surprise will impact others.
On this occasion Jesus had one more surprise to reveal. If comprehended it was a sledge hammer. We or the early disciples might reject it, however Jesus removed the passive option of merely being amazed.
At first, Jesus’ words appeared to be describing the results of his death. “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed. But if it dies, it produces much fruit.”/1 By seamlessly transitioning into discussing discipleship, Jesus revealed this principle was not only true for himself, but also for his disciples. Disciples produce fruit, if they die to themselves.
As he had done before, Jesus defined discipleship in terms of the cross. Their Lord would go to the cross. To be a disciple necessitated reflecting him by choosing to live for God, rather than for oneself in this world.
Discipleship requires living a cross-shaped life, that is, a cruciform life. Carrying one’s cross does not mean coping with a physical difficulty. Disciples die to themselves in order to serve Jesus as Lord.
In later Christian correspondences, the apostle Paul summarized Jesus’ teaching on discipleship with these words:
- “he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”/2
- “I have been crucified with Christ, I no longer live but Christ lives in me.”/3
1/ John 12:24
2/ 2 Corinthians 5:15
3/ Galatians 2:20