The disciples were not a whole lot different than you and I - simple folk, living day-to-day, making a living with the labor of their hands and the skills of the mind. They asked questions when things didn't make sense and ventured to solve issues which they had no real business getting involved in. Their needs were similar, ranging from daily bread to new sandals. They didn't always recognize when greatness was in their midst, and seldom realized scripture was being fulfilled right before their eyes. When Jesus wanted to get a point across to them, he often had to call attention to what he was saying - simply because they were distracted, only listening half-heartedly, or because they didn't recognize the significance of what he was saying directly to them. In these ways we are also like the disciples - needing Jesus to tell us plainly when it is REALLY important for us to hear something!
Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal. (John 12:24-25 MSG)
Such is the case when Jesus uttered these words - distractions, questions galore, things just not making sense at the moment - he has to call their attention to the fact he needs them to hear something very important. He is about to be taken from them - his death is imminent. The day was filled with crowds of curious onlookers, questioning Greek scholars, and pompous Pharisee religious leaders - but to his disciples, he directs his attention. In turn, he asks them to direct their attention fully toward him. God has a way of doing this whenever he wants us to "get" something - perhaps even something he has been telling us in multiple ways for quite some time. When it is time for us to "hear", he asks for us to really "listen".
The crux of his message - he MUST die in order that THEY might live. His message to them - be as reckless in your love as I have been in mine. This is a pretty big challenge, don't you think? Be as reckless in our love as he has been in his love toward mankind - what does that look like? Maybe reckless suggests to you this idea of throwing caution to the wind. Or perhaps just being so unconcerned with the consequences that you just do something. I don't think this is what Jesus had in mind for us. In fact, Jesus is talking more about what we live our life FOR more than anything else. He wants us to recognize that kingdom living requires reckless abandonment of all our own agendas and plans - in order to take up his.
To illustrate the point, he uses the analogy of a grain of wheat falling (or being purposefully planted) into the ground. Once inside the soil, surrounded by the warmth and nutrients of the ground holding it so tight, it begins to "breakdown" on the inside. The change to the kernel of wheat is not visible on the outside at first, but the process of transformation begins deep within the tiny kernel. Maybe this is what Jesus was really directing the disciples to learn - all growth begins as a matter of death - death producing a life transforming change which begins from the inside. His death was necessary for our life-transformation. Our death to self is necessary for the life-transformation he so desires for each of us.
No death is ever without multiplied effect. This is the second principle Jesus taught. His death would result in many more millions than we'd ever be able to count coming close to the Father's heart in intimate relationship through Jesus, his Son. Our death would bring untold numbers into the revelation of God's transformational power. A life laid down at the foot of the cross will enable the multiplied effect of God's transforming power. We can struggle to hold onto our life, but our stubborn hold on living life by our own terms will never yield exponential growth. The only way to experience growth is through death. A hard truth to embrace, but a necessary one! Just sayin!