We are journeying toward an answer to the question, ‘what does Jesus mean by saying ‘those who love their life will lose it?’ Yesterday we paused to prayerfully consider what Jesus is telling us about what God is doing. Today, we stop to think about what exactly Jesus is doing, not only in this particular story, but in the gospel of John (in the gospels in general actually).
To begin this part of our journey we have to go back to worship on Sunday Oct 27th, in which we listened as Jesus occupied the Temple in Jerusalem and then proclaimed ‘Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.’ Jesus, we are told, was speaking of himself, he was the temple that would be destroyed and then raised up.’ We must recall that part of what Jesus was doing at the temple that day was prophetically confronting the religious & political leadership who created and maintained an economic system that divested the people of wealth and redistributed it to the wealthiest 1-2% of the population. The gospels tell us that Jesus joined these poor, often malnourished and diseased people in their vulnerable lives. We are told that Jesus had no place to lay his head, both a literal and highly symbolic joining with those who had lost their property to the wealthy. We are told that he instructed to divest themselves of wealth and material goods as they went out to bring the good news to people, again a visible way of showing solidarity with the least of these. We are told that Jesus went to the lepers and the prostitutes, both of whom, we can safely assume find themselves in these situations due to poverty. Jesus was one of the expendables. God, the creator of all, in Jesus became one of the least, one of the most vulnerable.
To be crucified was not simply to be killed or tortured, although that is tragic and cruel enough. To be crucified was to be publicly shamed and used as a messenger to all of Israel. The message was clear. Make peace with this unjust system, accept your fate under our control, for we are in control of life and death. It instilled fear in the people so that they would submit to the economic and social control of Rome.
What does this tell us about Jesus? When Jesus speaks about being the temple that will be destroyed, the grain of wheat that falls and dies, Jesus is speaking about joining with the vulnerable, the abused, the oppressed. God, who has always paid particular attention to the oppressed as we recalled yesterday, has come to earth to join with these impoverished, oppressed people. That joining is complete. There is poverty, there is loss, and there is even death. Jesus will undo the power of Rome not through violent revolution, but instead through full solidarity with the people, to the point of his own death.