Losing in order to keep

Published 8:36 pm Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Charles Qualls

The young mother, a skilled professional, will tell you in her more honest moments of the job she left not because she was unhappy or mistreated. She’ll tell you she made more money in that former job than she makes now. But she left it because she felt that she could have more time to invest in her family if she made a change. She lost so that she could keep.

As the caterpillar becomes a butterfly, there is this instinct-triggered moment where the caterpillar has to willingly choose to leave the only extended home it has ever known. It emerges from the cocoon of its safety in order to take flight for the first time. The caterpillar loses so that as a butterfly it can keep its life and gain.

The approaching Passover Festival is the setting for our story in John 12: 20-33. Crowds are gathering because pilgrims are coming into the city for the observances. Jesus’ reputation has grown, so he is drawing a following there in the all the hubbub. One person has suggested that the hinge of John’s Gospel is Chapter 11. The death and raising up of Lazarus. Many of the religious leaders were witnesses to this and it was the final straw and they knew Jesus had to die. Now he’s a star at their party. They don’t like it.

In the middle of all this going on, a group of Greeks come and want to see Jesus. What kind of Jesus do we want to see? We all long to see the depth of Jesus, for it could impact our own lives. We want to see the comforting Jesus. We want to see the healing Jesus. We want to see the redeemer Jesus and we want to see the powerful Jesus. The Greeks are symbolic of us all.

Anne LaMott has said, “The mystery of grace is something like this: the grace of God always meets us where we are. But the grace of God never leaves us where we are.” She also says, “We know when we’ve created God in our own image, because then God hates all the same people we hate.” The religious leaders had a hatred for Jesus that had already led them to a conclusion about what they were going to do. Jesus says here, “My soul is troubled.” That automatically catches our attention. We should wonder what would be capable of troubling the soul of the Son of God, shouldn’t we?

The Greeks want to see Jesus. They are going to see Jesus alright. But this is a Jesus who understands the showdown that has been waiting for him here in Jerusalem. He will soon hand himself over to be arrested, tried and executed on a Cross. He will lose his life in order that a whole world might gain.

We will soon enter the dark days that lead up to the victory of Easter. Many Christians don’t like the heaviness of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday observations. They find the darkness of the moment to be a bummer. Mature Christians understand, though, that we have no story and no victory without the weight of those happenings.

Dr. Barbara Brown Taylor, in her significant book Learning to Walk In the Dark, says, “New life, we find in the darkness. Whether a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb or Jesus in the tomb, it is in the darkness that we find the light.” Jesus goes on to say here “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

I wonder as we inch closer to Easter whether we’ve taken full advantage of the Lenten season? If we have, and if we’re open to it, the beauty and majesty with which God longs to fill our lives can be ours. The power God wants to visit upon us could clean up the parts of who I am that I can’t clean up myself. The things I think or opine could be replaced by the things that God knows. The people I don’t like or who I don’t want to love, could be people I see differently. Newness of life, just like with the butterfly, can be ours. But each of us will have to lose in order to gain. Like Jesus, we’ll have to give up some things in order to keep life as God always intended it to be.