Of course you have. You’re old.
Well, yes, but not that kind of death. I’ve been thinking about crucifixion.
Paul said in Galatians 2:19-20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” In other words, while Paul no longer lived, something far better happened…Christ lived his life through him.
And then I read John 12:23-26 where Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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. 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 honor him.”
That sounds like a major downer. That sounds like a marvelous text for a preacher wanting to motivate people in the church to be more missional—to serve, to give, to sacrifice, and to change the world. I get that, but it doesn’t work. And in fact, it isn’t what Jesus said at all.
I once heard a seminary chapel speaker talk about missions. He used this text in a very harsh and condemning way. Among other things, he said to students worried about their cars needing repair, “Who promised you a car?” To students worried about health insurance, “Who said that God owed you health insurance?” To those with no money, working day and night just to get by and feed their families, “God didn’t promise you a rose garden. Who said that you would have money?”
It went on and on.
Once the students were “eating dirt” because they felt so guilty and so ashamed, he asked them to stand before God and the student body, committing themselves to missions. A bunch of students stood.
Jesus didn’t say those words in John to shame us—to make us feel so guilty that we would live in obedience, be nice, be sacrificial and finally be involved in missions. Instead, he gave his disciples some very good news. A seed doesn’t decide to die and to work hard at it. A seed is cast to the ground, dies, and then produces a harvest. When Paul said that he was crucified with Christ, he wasn’t telling us something we needed to do; he was defining who we are.
Jesus said that we are seeds—insignificant, generally dirty and weak seeds—and in losing our lives, we would be free.
Crucified people are dangerous. They don’t have anything to prove and they never have to pretend. They just show. Because of Christ, they know what is important and what isn’t. They don’t have to look good, be famous, impress anybody or win races. Seeds are seeds and they grow. It’s their very nature. I don’t know about you, but that is a relief.
What would happen if you just showed and were yourself (vulnerable, dirty and weak) around people?
I was once offered the presidency of a prominent seminary. Given that I ran away from kindergarten and my doctorates are all phony, even the thought of me as a seminary president was insane. But then I started thinking of the job’s prestige and fame…and how wise the board was in choosing me.
I was about to accept the job when my late friend, Rusty Anderson, called. I was in a hotel somewhere. I don’t know how Rusty got the number or how he even heard about the offer. I picked up the phone and, without his saying hello, Rusty started in. “Who the devil do you think you are?” he said. “You can’t be a seminary president. You would just screw it up and make a fool of yourself. Be what God called you to be and grow where you’re planted, okay?”
Jesus also said that when the seeds are dead and buried, they “bear much fruit.” Every time I’ve pretended to be something I’m not and tried to work hard for Jesus, I’ve looked silly. Not only that. I’ve truncated the Jesus who wants to naturally live through me.
There is great freedom in being a seed and watching the growth.
But here is the best part. Jesus said that when the seed dies, it not only bears fruit. He said that because of being crucified, we would be where he is and the Father would honor us. That’s called love and it’s why we were created. It’s being missional without any agenda but his. It’s showing up, knowing that we are always deeply loved, fully acceptable and incredibly powerful. There isn’t any pride in that. Whoever heard of a seed being proud of being a seed? A seed is just a seed that died in order for the farm to have a great harvest.
We have been crucified with Christ. We are, as it were, seeds cast by the Sower for a harvest. All we have to do is show or—to stay with the metaphor—hang out until our lives start bearing fruit. You don’t work at that. You just rest in who you are.
So from Jesus (and Paul)…lighten up and be who you are.
Time to Draw Away
Read John 17 & Romans 7:18-25
What would happen if you just showed and were yourself (vulnerable, dirty and weak) around people? For one thing, you would be forced to trust God--leaving the impact and the results to him. Crucified people and seeds have that in common. And when Christ lives through us…love, freedom and power are always the result.