Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Tree of Life: Making the Choice

Jesus was at the height of his popularity when he entered into Jerusalem before Passover. He had just raised Lazarus from the dead and crowds crushed each other along the roadway so that they could get a look of this mysterious man, Jesus. They took their branches from the palm trees and waved them, along with putting their cloaks on the ground for Jesus to pass over on. They shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the lord, the King of Israel.”

The Pharisees made the remark, “See, the whole world has gone after him.” The disciples must have been reveling. After all, this is what they were dreaming for: seeing Jesus become the King who would overthrow the Romans and restore Israel back to the glory days. They even postured for who would sit next to Jesus as he reigned. However, Jesus made a choice and it wasn’t for popularity. He spoke once again from the parable of the tree and the seeds when in the very next passage after his parade into Jerusalem, he told his disciple and his friends, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 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” John 12:23-24. Jesus teaches his disciples that it wasn’t the popularity that will bring his glory. It isn’t defeating the world’s greatest power either. It is his death that will bring his glory. It is letting the seed fall to the ground and die because it is in his death that life comes. It is a choice. He continues to explain the choice: “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me” John 12:25-26. Jesus was willing to make the choice for the greater glory. He saw that his popularity was going to be short lived and understood that the person that he wanted to be “popular” with was his Heavenly Father. It was pleasing him that would bring Jesus the greatest life. It was in following the Father’s pathway of losing his life for the current world that Jesus would bring life for eternity. He is also calling us to the same path. He tells us that if we are willing to make the choice to plant seeds that go deep into the ground that need to die, we will be following him and serving him. We were created for relationship! Jesus longs for us to come where he is and to serve him there. He invited his disciples into the Passover so that he share the meal that would prepare the lamb for slaughter. He took his trusted tree into the Garden of Gethsemane so that they would be with him as he struggled for his very life. He longs for our presence with him. Jesus’ anguish in the Garden was intense. He cried out, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Luke tells us that in his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood.” Jesus didn’t look forward to what “letting his seed fall to the ground and die” would be. He agonized over his choice to follow his father’s path all the way to death. However, he never wavered from the choice. He stood and faced his arresters; asking them why they needed to come and arrest him in the dark. He had been in the light every day as he taught at the Temple. We have an opportunity to make a choice to be present with Jesus through this Easter season. Next week is Holy Week; it is the most important week of our faith as disciples of Jesus. Did you realize that approximately 30% of the Gospels focus on that one week? The amount of writing indicates how seriously the Lord and the first followers understand Holy Week to be. Jesus’ disciples had a hard time being present with him in the Garden. We struggle too. None of us want to face pain or experience death. It hurts us! But, Jesus has given us a pathway for life if we are willing to make the choice for death. ow can you die to your own desires to make room for the journey to the cross with Jesus? What do you hear him calling you to do? Is it a fast next week? Denying ourselves food can remind us of Jesus’ suffering and call for the seeds to fall into the ground and die. Is it a choice to get up an hour earlier each day to spend extra time with Jesus? He wanted his friend’s presence in the Garden so much. He was so disappointed to find them sleeping time after time. Is it a choice to give something up, such as television, internet, or social media? As we step back from our regular patterns of life, we make new space available to be present with the Lord. Whatever you choose, know that he is pleased that you are taking the step of letting your seed fall to the ground. Remember that it is in death that the fullness of life comes. May your life bear abundant fruit, as you follow the pathway of Jesus.

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