“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Paradox of “Whoever Loses His Life Will Find It”

3. One Must Die in Order to Live

Another paradox in Jesus’ way of life is one of loss before gain, suffering before glory, death before life. It is not just a sequential relationship, but a causal relationship: one must lose everything in order to gain the greatest treasure, suffer in order to find the greatest joy, die in order to live fully. Jesus taught this message to his disciples and lived it out on the cross.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” – Matthew 16:24-25 (cf. also Mark 8:34-35, Luke 9:23-24, Matthew 10:39)

“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.” – John 12:24-25*

“Any of you that does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” – Luke 14:33 (cf. also 14:27, 17:33; cf. Philippians 3:7-8)

“Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” – John 11:25

“…as dying, and behold, we live…” – 2 Corinthians 6:9
As we have already seen, this paradox was embodied in Jesus himself: he lost his life, and in so doing he gained it, and ours. He died, and in so doing defeated death.

*Jesus uses similar language in describing how faith as small as that of a mustard seed can move mountains (Matthew 17:20), and in describing the kingdom of God, which is like a mustard seed. From the smallest of seeds grows the largest of plants (Matthew 13:31); similarly, the kingdom of God comes in power and glory, but it grows from the smallest and lowliest of beginnings – a peasant girl named Mary and a stable in the town of Bethlehem.

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