Baptism is Just The Beginning: The Fullness of the Christian Calling
In this passage we see the fullness of the Christian calling. We are to do as Jesus did. That is how we “follow” him. Indeed, we cannot call ourselves truly mature Christians unless we act in the manner that Jesus describes here in the metaphorical images that precede today’s passage.
When some Greeks ask Philip if they can see Jesus, Philip and Andrew go to Jesus about their request. Jesus’ response is instructive and very challenging here. He predicts his death, telling them that the time for his glorification has come. Then he begins to prepare the Apostles, and all who desire to follow him, including us, as to what it will require of us. “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (verses 24-25)
We are that kernel of wheat. We have been baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but that is not the fullness of our Christian lives. It is the beginning of our Christian lives and the graces received are with us for the rest of eternity. But, in order for us to grow and to become productive followers of Jesus Christ, we must die to all that holds us back from being fully Christian. We must die to our old sinful ways, to the habits of selfishness and pride, fear and self-concern. Until we die to these we will never be able to love as Jesus loved, to serve as Jesus calls us to serve. Without dying to that old self, we cannot become fully matured Christians, the faithful followers that Jesus calls us to be.
This idea is enhanced with the following verse. If we love our lives, that is, the things of the world and the finite pleasures of the body, of wealth and power and fame, which are like the grass, here today and gone tomorrow, we will surely lose it all, and more. We will lose the eternal joy of being in the Divine Presence for eternity. But if we “hate” these things that make life a sham and an endless seeking for momentary pleasures, we will find that the real and true happiness that comes from following Christ Jesus will be ours now and forever. This does not mean that we will avoid suffering or sacrifice. Indeed, in this world, we will certainly suffer and be called to sacrifice just as Jesus did. But if we do so out of our love for Jesus, then our suffering and sacrifice will have true meaning and true effect in this world. When we come to know, to love, and to serve God in this world, letting go of all that binds us to earthly things, we will find the happiness that our souls truly desire.
“Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant will also be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (verse 26) That is the invitation and the promise to all who call themselves Christians. It is up to us to choose this path. Jesus has offered it to us in absolute freedom. Though it will not be easy, we can know with the confidence of faith, that the Holy Spirit will be with us every step of the way. We will never be alone. Our suffering, done in the name of Jesus, will not only be recognized by the Father; it will be accepted by the Father in the same way that he accepted Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice. And the Father, through the Holy Spirit, will make the “seeds” of our selfless sufferings and sacrifices effective for bringing forth “many more” seeds, in ways that only he can know, and in the proper time. That is not up to us. Only our willingness to follow Jesus with our whole being is required.
Lord, strengthen us in our faith. Give us the insight and the courage to die to our former ways and to become good and faithful followers of your Son, Jesus. We desire to follow him; increase our desire. Your love and your grace is all that we need. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!
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