The Scripture text is John 12:25 "The one how lavishes special honor on his own life destroys his life. The one who is disinclined towards his life in this world will keep it unto life eternal." (TT)
Rudolph Bultmann writes about verse 25: "life is of so peculiar a character, it so completely eludes any desire to hold it fast, and it is won exactly when we give it up." This is the great paradox of faith and life in Jesus Christ.
I thought of the movie Braveheart, upon reading this quote. The prison scene, near the end of the movie, when the queen enters to provide him with a painkiller, but primarily to persuade him to confess that he might regain his freedom, and keep his life. But Wallace new better. His quote (my version TT) "All men die, but few men ever really live." Both Bultmann's quote and Wallace's have a redemptive theme, which is a pointer to the redemptiveness of Jesus Christ. Jesus' death is our provision of life. Jesus' resurrected life makes our life resurrectable.
I like the idea of preaching this text on Palm Sunday: the picture of Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem - to his death, yet he is lavished with special honor by others. He is disinclined towards life in this world as it is - which is why he has come to redeem it, because he loves this world too much to leave it the way it is now.
The question for us: how do we get eternal life? What must we do to have eternal life now? We must let go of this life, become disinclined to this world as it is now. The decision to trust Jesus enables us to love this world and be disinclined towards it at the same time. Jesus came on a search and rescue mission to this world, a world of "flotsam and jetsam" (to quote Tolkein), hence one can see how Jesus loves this world, but why would he want to be inclined towards it as it is now? This world is his creation, but it is a creation populated by rebels who deface and devestate Him and His work. But he loves the creation and he loves the rebels, and he will redeem his creation, and he will redeem all rebels who trust that Jesus Christ is both willing and able.
What would make this world "disinclinable" yet "lovable"? See the world through Jesus' eyes. We are his body, so this should be feasible. Jesus says to trust, then you can see. To see the world as it really is, a world run amok, this we are disinclined towards. But the earth and its creatures are God's handiwork, no matter how defaced and polluted they become. And all humans are made in the image of God, and thus this world is lovable.
How uncomfortable does this world and its ways make you? If this world were a shirt, how easily would you wear it? Would it be a like a rough burlap undershirt? Or a tailored silk shirt?
I am not suggesting we become hard cynics, callosed skeptics towards anything and everything generated by the world. Just uncomfortable, disinclined. Anytime anything is accepted as status quo, it ought to be questioned. All presuppositions about what is acceptable beliefs, behaviors, and battles ought to be reacted to with a raised eyebrow and a questioning look. Everything about this world is tainted and essentially ruined by sin. At the end of all things (Rev. 22) God will remake everything, a new heaven and a new earth. How attached should I become to this world, which is tainted and ruined? I am born into a world to which I must become more and more uncomfortable with. The fruit of this? Deeper yearning for life eternal, the good life that gets better and better for ever and ever, starting now. It is the fresh water and tasty bread of life that both satisfies me in Jesus but leaves me disillusioned with the water and bread of this world.
So what do I do with my life in this world that I am becoming disinclined towards and learning to love like Jesus? I do two things which are really the same thing: I become like a Seed (v.24), which must be laid into the ground and die so that life can emerge from me - both for myself and others. I become a Servant of Jesus (v.26), following his steps into Life Eternal (the place), and as a Servant of Jesus I receive Honor from the Father. This is the honor I've always really wanted, and now I have become disinclined towards the honor the world bestows, I am disinclined towards honoring myself, of putting myself first in both pampering and promoting.
So what does this mean for everyday eternal life?
Each day is not about me. I am a Seed/Servant. How can I lay down my life today so that another can have the day God would bless them with, if only I would lay down my life. Who can I serve today, so that through my serving God can do his work that otherwise would be thwarted by my passive agressive rebellion of ignorance and business?
Hence our morning and evening prayers are so vital. Our meal time prayers could actually nourish us more than the food we scarf, if we prayed wisely and awarely. Our "unceasing prayer" could be our ongoing response to God's ongoing prompting of where to lay down our life, of whom to serve during the day. The day is all you have, the hour is all you have, really the minute (to be generous) is all you really have. What will you do with the next minute? What you dang well please? What you think God might approve of based on stuff you've read in the Bible? Or, what God has just prompted you to do in the moment? If I want life eternal, I must lay down this life on earth, to be disinclined towards it. If I want honor in this life, it will be from my Father, honor given for following Jesus in trust.
How much do I want eternal life now? The rich man walked away because he was too inclined towards stuff (the money, the influential job at the office, the family heritage, the great entertainment, the thrill of technology, the stimulating literature, the vivid landscapes, the whatever consits of life in this world).
How do I best enjoy the stuff of this world? Become disinclined towards it.
How do I gain honor in this life? Seek it from the Father who cares for you, not people who need to use (and abuse) you.
How do I live to attain greatness? Lay down your life as a servant of all, in the steps of Jesus.
How do I do this. It starts with trust: do you trust Jesus to provide you with the good life that gets better and better forever and ever with God everday?
Yes or no.