The First Prayer of the Cross (Part 1)

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July 30, 2018

John 12:23-28

23 Jesus replied, “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. 25 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.

27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”

CONSIDER THIS

We come now to the prayers of the Cross. There is a sense in which we should consider all of Jesus prayers as prayers of the Cross. The Cross is far more than a day in the life of Jesus. The Cross is the totality of the mind of Christ, the redemptive vision of the love of God and the way of flourishing abundant life marked out for us. The Cross is the prosperous way of the Kingdom of God, the way “in heaven,” becomes embodied, “on earth.”

The Cross is the mysterious secret to the life of prayer envisioned for us by Jesus. We will only find this way by following him, which is why delving into his prayers is so important. His prayers reveal his mind, heart and vision. Before going further, let’s remind ourselves, we aren’t in search of tips and tricks to help with our praying. There are technical or surface level changes, and then there is deep transformation.

This whole study has been about deep transformation and digging the kind of well it takes to sustain a life of prayer. Changes to one’s prayer practices can help one grow, like changes to one’s diet can help one lose weight, but we all know the problem with dieting. It’s technical change rather than deep transformation.

Speaking of dieting, there’s an interesting three letter word tucked into the larger word. Did you catch it? It’s also tucked into today’s text.

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.

We live in an age where the Cross has been reduced to the gateway from earth to heaven. In other words, because of my belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection I get to go to heaven when I die. I’m not saying that’s not true. I am saying it’s not the biblical vision of the  Christian faith. The biblical vision of the Christian faith sees the Cross as the gateway from heaven to earth. The Cross opens and unfolds the way of “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

To be clear, the Gospel does mean eternal life, and yes this comes after death. Here’s the massive, beyond-quantum innovation of the Gospel: Die to live—not later but now. Many follow Jesus to the Cross where they gladly or glibly receive an assurance of eternal life after death. Few follow him through the Cross where they find the reality of eternal life now. The secret to life, according to Jesus, is to die before you die.

25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

To love one’s life means to cling to and pursue one’s self-interest, preservation, security, comfort, leisure, luxury and all the other markers of a worldly prosperity only money can buy. (As an interesting and ironic aside, people often characterize heaven by the size of one’s “mansion” there. Taking a step further, the controlling vision of prosperity looks like a second home for the rich and a lottery ticket for the poor. And because I know I just stepped in it with some readers, the problem is not the second home, it’s the lack of vision for it). To hate one’s life means to exchange these things for an interest beyond self, thriving beyond preservation, security beyond wealth, rest beyond leisure, comfort beyond luxury, purpose beyond problem-free life and yes, a love beyond power as previously imagined.

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.

This way of the Cross is the life of prayer we speak of, and far from a method, it can only be found through the kind of pursuit of Jesus that leads one to abandon every other ambition. It will not make you a fanatic. It will set you free.

Now to the prayer. Let’s call this first prayer of the Cross the Glory Prayer.

27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”

It took longer to get here than I thought. We will drink together from the well of this prayer tomorrow.

THE PRAYER

Almighty Ascended Lord Jesus Christ, you are high and exalted yet nearer than our breath. Thank you for revealing your own inner struggle, the trouble of your own soul, the challenge of your life and the way you prayed your way through.  “Father glorify your name!” Right here, Jesus. Right now, Jesus. Amen.

THE QUESTIONS

  1. What do you make of this switch from the Cross as the way from earth to heaven to the Cross as the way from heaven to earth?
  2. Have you come “to” the Cross and received Jesus gift of forgiveness? Are you on the path of coming “through” the Cross and receiving Jesus gift of freedom?
  3. What is your primary vision of prosperity? Is it more shaped by the world around you or by the coming Kingdom of God? What might help that shift?

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

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