Holy Week Devotional: Finding life in death
John 12:23–26 (ESV): And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 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. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 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.
Imagine someone taking a grain of wheat, cleaning and polishing it, and putting it in a glass case on a shelf. It is protected. It is safe. But it is alone. It is fruitless. It is useless.
Now imagine that same grain of wheat, cast into the earth and covered up. Imagine moisture from the earth penetrating its hard exterior until it splits. The grain of wheat dies. But from its dead body sprouts a stalk. And from the stalk, a head of wheat, containing dozens of new grains.
In the same way, Jesus did not come into the world to preserve his own life. He could have easily escaped the cross. But he willingly went to the cross and died in our place so that we could be spared from God’s justice.
This is how the kingdom of God works. Self-preservation should not be our priority. The good of humanity should be.
It is easy to go into self-preservation mode during any threat or crisis. We focus all our energy on our own survival. This is what is behind panic-buying and hoarding. It is a desire to survive at the expense of other people.
We see this not only in times of crisis. In general, greed is a self-preservation tactic. It is a desire to hoard wealth and resources to ensure one’s own well-being, even at the expense of others. Related to greed is worldly ambition. Our desire to win in this life sometimes makes us forget others, or see other people as competition to be eliminated rather than as fellow citizens to rise together with.
Followers of Jesus must walk a different path. Jesus calls us to follow him, even to the cross. This means being willing to sacrifice ourselves for the good of others. Life is not about doing well just for ourselves. The Christian life is about helping others prosper, trusting that in the long run, as those around us prosper, so will we,
It means we don’t buy two bulk packages of toilet paper. We leave one for the person behind us. For many of us, going to the cross means staying home and not inadvertently contributing to the spread of COVID-19. For others of us, it means going to work in hospitals, grocery stores, restaurants, warehouses and other essential industries. For all of you on the frontlines, we speak Christ’s protection over you.
They say there will be much death this week due to COVID-19. They say it will be the hardest week yet. How fitting that it will be during Holy Week, the darkest week in the church year. But we don’t have to be afraid. Death cannot hold us down, just as it could not hold Jesus down. After the darkness of death comes the dawn of new life. Easter is coming.
So let’s renounce fear. Let’s reject a selfish view of our own lives. Let’s be willing to die a bit each day so that others can live. Let’s share generously as God provides. Whatever we give up or lose in this life, Jesus will give us something better, in this life and in the life to come.
Father God, we thank you for the example of Jesus Christ, who did not live for himself, but for you and for your people. Help us to have the same attitude, the same willingness to sacrifice, the same concern for the good of others.
We ask that you would bring a swift end to the COVID-19 pandemic. We ask for healing for those who are sick, and protection for us and our loved ones. We pray for wisdom for all our leaders in government, and strength and safety for all on the front lines.
Most of all, we ask for revival. We ask that many in our nation would turn back to you during this time of death and darkness. Help our country to remember that healing, new life and eternal life are freely available to all through Jesus Christ.
In his name we pray,