24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. 25 All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them. 26 Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives? 27 For the Human One is about to come with the majesty of his Father with his angels. And then he will repay each one for what that person has done.
23 Jesus replied, “The time has come for the Human One [or Son of Man] to be glorified. 24 I assure you that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it can only be a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their lives will lose them, and those who hate their lives in this world will keep them forever. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me. Wherever I am, there my servant will also be. My Father will honor whoever serves me.
Outstanding quarterback Roger Staubach helped to redefine “winning” when he said, “Winning isn't getting ahead of others. It's getting ahead of yourself.”* That was what Jesus taught in today’s readings. Scholar William Barclay wrote, “To the Jews the ‘Son of Man’ stood for the undefeatable world conqueror sent by God…. Jesus did not mean by glorified what they understood. They meant that the subjected kingdoms of the earth would grovel before the conqueror’s feet; by glorified he meant crucified.”**
- Jesus' disciples, like most first-century Jews, expected a conquering Messiah, a figure of intimidating power. That made it hard for them to see any value in Jesus' words about self-sacrifice (cf., for example, Matthew 16:21-23). Do you have any beliefs about greatness or success that make it harder for you to accept Jesus' teaching about a truly winning life? What helps your thinking reach beyond those inherited or learned cultural beliefs?
- Our world, like the Roman Empire, usually identifies “glory” with power, wealth or public personal acclaim (e.g. winning an Olympic gold medal, Oscar or Super Bowl). We tend to see sacrifice and suffering as things to avoid if we can. What do you think Jesus meant when he said the horror of a crucifixion would “glorify” him? What glory (if any) are you able to see in his death on a cross?
Lord Jesus, help me to focus less on getting ahead of others than on, in Staubach’s words, getting ahead of myself. Teach me how to value and honor sacrifice in the way you modeled for me. Amen.
* Quote found at: https://www.brainyquote.com/search_results?q=Staubach.
** William Barclay, The Gospel of John—Volume 2 Chapters 8–21. The Daily Study Bible series, Rev. ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975, pp. 122-123.
Randy Greene is a part of the Communications team at the Church of the Resurrection. He helps develop and maintain the church's family of websites. He is also a graduate of Central Baptist Theological Seminary and loves to write stories about faithfulness.