Hate Your Life

The Gospel of John  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  41:59
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In John 12:25, Jesus calls his followers to live in an incredibly unusual way as he calls us to hate our lives in this world. Find out what that means as we walk through John 12 together.

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Open your Bibles to John 12 this morning. I would encourage you to leave them open, because we are going to jump around a bit in this chapter today.
I like to have one main idea for you to take home with you each week, and for some of you, you are going to feel like you have this one absolutely locked in, maybe for the first time…If you catch nothing else today, I want you to leave here knowing that Jesus calls you to hate your life.
Like I said, some of you just said, “Now, that one I can do. I got that one. I already hate my life!”
If you are still trying to figure out what Christianity is all about, you might be thinking, “My friends are right—Christians are just miserable people who don’t have any fun. They are supposed to hate their lives!”
Here’s what I want us to see, though. As we walk together through this chapter, and we see Jesus’s command to hate our lives, I want to make a distinction between hating life and hating my life.
It may seem like splitting hairs, but what most of us think of when we hear “hate your life” is hating the way my life is going—health, finances, relationships, school, the challenges of aging all can lead us to hate life, but that isn’t what Jesus is calling us to. In fact, remember that back in chapter 10:10, Jesus said he came to give his followers abundant life, so we can find joy in him, even when times are hard.
There are several different groups who respond to Jesus in this chapter, and the different responses help us draw a clearer picture of what Jesus means.
First, let’s read what he says.
Jump into the middle of the chapter with me, starting in verse 23-26...
Jesus is covering several different topics here. Starting in this chapter, we have entered into the last week before Jesus is put to death on a cross. In verse 23, he says that the time is now here for him to receive the glory, the honor, that he deserves. What Jesus is going to do in a matter of days is literally the most important act in history, and he deserves the honor for it.
What is he going to do? Look at verse 24—Using the analogy of a kernel of wheat, he hints at the fact that he is going to die, giving his life so that others could live.
That leads to our key verse this morning, verse 25...
Note the important phrase “in this world”—that phrase is what helps us understand what Jesus is saying.
He isn’t telling you that you should hate living, going around miserable all day long and waiting for the time when you can fall asleep to get a break from the drudgery of life.
As New Testament scholar Grant Osborne put it:
It is critical to realize that what Jesus actually says is “anyone who hates their life in this world,” meaning to hate the world and its things. The disciple who focuses on worldly life rather than on Jesus will in the end have nothing. Moreover, by despising the worldly life and turning from it, we gain not just life but “eternal life.” What a trade-off—giving up the temporary in order to gain the eternal.
The translators of the NET Bible render it even more strongly:
John 12:25 NET
The one who loves his life destroys it, and the one who hates his life in this world guards it for eternal life.
The word can mean either “lose” or “destroy,” and given the word “keep/guard” that follows it, they felt it warranted the stronger translation.
You don’t just lose your life by focusing on things in this world; you actually destroy it.
Think about this idea from a different angle.
What did Jesus say in verse 23? “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
We have talked about God’s glory as his majestic presence—the beauty, the power, the honor that belongs to him.
In the Old Testament, the word they used for God’s glory had the idea of “weight”—Giving God glory meant recognizing the weight he should have in your life.
If I try to live like the world around me, trying to hold on to everything I can, I am giving weight to what the world says is important, and Jesus has said that weight will destroy my life.
If, however, I give Jesus the weight he deserves, and I seek to glorify him through my life, I will enjoy life with him forever.
It’s easy to talk about this theoretically, but what does it actually look like to give Jesus the weight he deserves in my life?
There is a great picture for us at the beginning of the chapter, so let’s go back up to verse 1 and see...

1) Hating your life in this world.

Read verses 1-2...
As the chapter opens, you find Jesus again with Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.
Just like we have seen before, active Martha is up and serving. Lazarus is there with the others, and then Mary comes in and does the unexpected.
Mary’s response to all Jesus is and does is such a clear picture of what it Jesus is getting at when he calls us to hate our lives.
Read it with me in verse 3-8...
In just a few short verses, we see how Mary was willing to lay aside everything so that Jesus would receive the honor and glory he deserved.
Let’s talk about some of ways she showed that her life didn’t matter to her:
She poured out a pound of perfume, which Judas estimates would be worth around a year’s salary for a regular worker. To her, honoring Jesus with this gift was more important than money, material things, or possibly even financial security—this might have been her life’s savings. She gave Jesus more weight, more glory, than she did her financial stability.
This gift might have been even more significant than that. We don’t know for sure, but this may actually have been Mary’s dowry, or the only financial thing that would have helped her secure a husband. That means it wasn’t just a blow to her finances; it very well may have been a blow to her future. Without a good dowry, she would have had difficulty securing a good husband. As she poured this perfume on Jesus, she was pouring out her future, her hopes of one day being married and having a family, lavishing it all on Christ in a matter of moments. She gave Jesus more weight than a family and a future.
Even if it wasn’t her dowry, feet in those days were disgusting, and it was humiliating to touch someone else’s feet. She not only touches his feet, but she breaks several cultural norms by taking down her hair and touching a man in public, especially a man who wasn’t her husband. Her lavish gift toward Jesus showed she gave Jesus more weight than she gave to the expectations and opinions of others.
This is a great example of what it means to hate your life in this world. She surrendered everything she was and everything she had to make sure Jesus received the glory, the weight, that he deserves.
Her sacrifice in this moment flowed out of a heart that had already been devoted to him. Remember what we said last week? Every time we see Mary, we see her at the feet of Jesus. In Luke, she was at his feet learning from him. In John 11, she falls at his feet for comfort in her pain. Now, she anoints his feet and wipes them with her hair, sacrificing everything for the God she had come to know.
Although Mary’s surrender to Jesus was the most obvious, she wasn’t the only one in the room that night who was honoring him.
Think about Lazarus, sitting there at the table near the man who raised him from the dead.
Jump down to verse 9-11. We will talk more about these in a minute, but did you see what they wanted to do to Lazarus? The religious leaders were plotting his murder! Instead of hiding, Lazarus is still right there with Jesus. He already died once, so he knew that following Jesus was more important than even preserving his own life.
What about Martha? She is busy serving, making sure Jesus and those with him got something to eat.
She is using her energy and her gifts to serve Jesus. That’s something the religious leaders didn’t like and could have big consequences for her in the future.
Each of them is putting honoring Jesus above themselves, even if it isn’t in ways that are outwardly lavish.
This kind of devotion is what Jesus is calling all of us to live for. We see it in God’s servants in the Old Testament in people like Caleb, who was 85 years old and still willing to fight to see God’s promises fulfilled.
We see it in the New Testament with people like Paul, who knew he was likely to die for Christ and said,
Acts 20:24 CSB
But I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.
That’s what it is to hate your life in this world!
To be more concerned with making sure that Jesus has the weightiest spot in your life and living to challenge others to do the same without regarding what it costs.
When you and I go about living for Jesus like this, don’t expect it to all go smoothly.
There may be folks like Judas—people who even seem to follow God--who disagree, who think you are crazy or wrong or a fool for sacrificing, but Jesus responds quickly to silence Judas and commend Mary.
There will be those in your family, your dorm or apartment, your classroom, or your job who think you are making the biggest mistake you could possibly make.
You need to settle in your heart, then, if Jesus is enough, and if you will give him first place.
Let’s take this a little further by looking at what happens when we make the opposite choice—to get caught up in the things of this life instead of giving Jesus the weight he deserves.

2)Loving your life in this world.

Jump down to verse 12-15...
We are nearing the Passover, which meant people had come from all over to celebrate in Jerusalem.
The city would be packed and busy.
As Jesus comes into the city, riding on the foal of a donkey, we see what seems at first to be another group of people who want to honor Jesus.
The crowd celebrates Jesus coming into Jerusalem as the King of Israel, which he is.
They are even part of fulfilling a prophecy that God made through the prophet Zechariah (Zech. 9:9), which is quoted in verse 15.
So, what’s wrong with this picture?
John gives us a couple of hints. Remember what we saw in verse 9? The crowd came because Jesus had raised Lazarus. He repeats that in verses 17-18.
The crowds weren’t there to honor Jesus out of hearts that wanted to see him lifted up; they were there celebrating because Jesus had done such cool stuff, and they wanted in on it.
In the years since God had made the promises to send a Messiah, a king, folks built up an expectation that the Messiah would come and liberate them from the Romans and set up his kingdom right away.
He is coming again to do that, but they misunderstood the parts of the prophecies that talked about how he would suffer for the people before that happened.
They think this is it—this is the moment when the Messiah is going to come in and do all this. He has done all these miracles, so in their minds, now is the nation of Israel is literally going to take over the world.
Their desire was for the blessings that would come with Jesus as king, not from a heart of love for God.
The crowd was there for the stuff, not for the Savior.
They were attracted by the power he had displayed, and they weren’t willing to join him and suffer with him.
How do we know that, by the way? Well, there are the notes John included in the verses we already mentioned.
He gives us even more insight in verse 37...
Jesus did all of these signs, and the crowd saw it, but they did not believe.
In spite of all he had done, the crowds loved this life more than they loved him.
John gives us one more tragic picture that I want us to look at here that shows where many were.
Read verses 42-43...
Stop and let that last verse sink in for a minute— “For they loved human praise more than praise from God.”
Think back to what we have been saying. There are only two options: try to hold onto everything this life offers you and destroy your soul, or surrender all of it and find eternal life by giving Jesus the weight he deserves.
If those are the options, where do these folks fit? They loved human praise more than praise from God, and that sure doesn’t sound like hating this life, does it?
Does that describe you? Do you care more about what people think than about what God thinks, or can you say what the apostle Paul says:
Galatians 1:10 CSB
For am I now trying to persuade people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Jesus said you need to hate your life in order to gain eternal life.
Which looks more like you? Mary, Martha, and Lazarus? The crowd who wanted to follow Jesus for the perks, or the ones who believed but were too afraid of what others thought to follow him?
Remember, the God who called you to hate your life and glorify him already did that for you.
Go back to verses 23-24.
Now, look at verse 32-33...
In a matter of days after these events, Jesus would be hung on a cross, lifted up above the crowd, bearing the sin and shame of the world.
Jesus is the grain of wheat who fell to the ground and died.
However, just like the grain of wheat sprouts new life, Jesus would rise from the dead, victorious over sin and death and offer life to all who will call upon him and be saved.
This is the God who calls you to hate this life—the things that would distract you from the very God who made you and loves you and cares more deeply for you than you can imagine.
If he would do that for you, then what do you need to do in response? Give him the glory, the weight, that he deserves.
[1] Osborne, Grant R. John: Verse by Verse. Edited by Jeffrey Reimer, Elliot Ritzema, Danielle Thevenaz, and Rebecca Brant. Osborne New Testament Commentaries. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018.
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