This day, Tuesday in Holy Week, is easily overlooked in the journey of Holy Week. Palm Sunday. Maundy Thursday. Good Friday. Holy Saturday. These all have easily recognizable markers in the path of Jesus from earthly ministry to resurrected Lord.
But, this Tuesday, this third day in Holy Week, is essential to us, and to our walk with Christ. It is today Christ instructs us on how we are to follow where he shortly will lead.
All we must do to see the coming path of Jesus is to look up the bloody path of the Via Dolorosa. We can see His bloody footsteps, stains in His precious blood, leading to Golgotha — to crucifixion. We know the path for Jesus leads there, to the cross, and to the tomb.
But, if we are to follow Christ, to truly put our feet on His path, that walk is not His alone. In the end, the cross is not only Jesus’ means of atoning for our past and future sins. It is His template, his lesson taught in blood, on how we are to follow Him in the present, and how we are to serve and love.
When the Greeks come to learn of and from Jesus, He gives them — He gives us — the Parable of the Grain of Wheat:
Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:24-25)
We, as humans, tend to take much pride in, and harbor much fear for, the little realms we build up in our little grains of wheat. Our bodies. Our possessions. Our titles and reputation. Our ego. Hold onto them. Lust after them. Live for them. Live in fear of losing them. If we hold onto these temporal definitions of worth, they never will be worth more than that humble, perishable little grain of wheat.
But, let that grain fall into the soil of true faith. Soak it in the waters of the Spirit and the blood of martyrs. Never let it be hidden from the light of God. And it will die. It will die to its old self, and be born into something new. Something far greater. Something that can feed and sustain the Body of Christ.
Jesus clarifies the parable: “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” If we hold onto our little grain of wheat — our old, self-centered, temporal life — we will lose our true potential in Christ. In order to flourish into the life of Christ, we must die to all that holds us back. Die to our greed. Die to our selfishness. Die to pride and envy. Die to our ego, and be reborn in Christ.
With this view, the path ahead for Jesus, the path to the cross, is not His path alone. It is our path. It is our path to walk with Him, to the cross, where we die to our old selves, and take on the new.
As Jesus tells us in the Gospel, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.” It is not enough, in this walk through Holy Week, to look at the path Christ walks for us. We must prepare ourselves to walk that walk with Him. The Way of the Cross isn’t just the walk of Jesus. It is the Way of all who would follow Him.
As St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1, this path makes no sense to the world: “The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
To set our feet into the path of Christ is a radical, self-outpouring movement of Love. It can seem insane to let our little grain of wheat fall into the soil. The Way, in the eyes of this world, is beyond foolish. And to surrender to it, in a world that lusts after power, seems like unforgivable weakness.
But, St. Paul reminds us, “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”
It is not the might of this world that triumphs at the cross. It is the surrender in faith, the dropping of our little grain of wheat, that gives birth to victory. For, the King we serve turns all upside down.
Again, turning to St. Paul:
God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
We do not boast in the world. We cannot boast in our ourselves. For we are nothing but moldering grain. But, let that grain die — die to all that holds us back — and we will rise in the glory of the Kingdom of God.
Die to our old selves, and embrace the cross. And there, on the bloody hilltop, Christ lifts us up with Him.
Lord Christ, our Most High and Beloved King, you have shown us the path we are to follow. You’ve shown us how to walk with you. You’ve given us all we need to die to ourselves, and rise in You. Be with us in these coming days of Holy Week, and keep this path always in our hearts. Give us the strength and courage to take up our cross and follow you, as good and faithful servants in Your Kingdom. Amen.