Tomorrow I am preaching from Genesis 11:1-9. It’s the account of Nimrod, the people of Shinar, and their quest to build a great city with a tower reaching into heaven. They were building, we are told, in order to make a name for themselves. They were seeking to bridge the gap between man and God by their own power and ingenuity. They were seeking to erase the distinction between creature and Creator. The account tells us almost everything we need to know about mankind. We are a prideful lot. We seek lives of independence from God.
But I probably shouldn’t write in generalities. The fact is I am a prideful man. I love my independence. I am far too interested in my own name while not nearly as interested enough in God’s great name. I find God’s interests often competing with my own. It is in those times when my inner Nimrod rises up within me. My inner Nimrod wants recognition and respect. He wants to be served. In those moments the only voice that can adequately talk back is that of Jesus.
The person and words of Jesus are an open rebuke to my inner Nimrod. Paul tells us in Philippians that Jesus, though in very nature God, nevertheless put away His divine rights and became a servant. In His teaching ministry Jesus turned upside down the prevailing attitudes about greatness. In the kingdom of Christ greatness is not about who finishes first or gains the most but who serves in anonymity.
As He was explaining to His disciples that His time had come to offer up His life Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). Obviously, Jesus is referencing His coming death which would bear the fruit of redemption. It makes sense that histories most significant death bore histories most significant fruit. But there is, it seems to me, an application to be had for all of us who know Jesus. Fruitfulness for God involves a kind of death.
Humility is hard to come by. Everything in us resists humility. We resist with all our might those things that make us humble. And so I have been thinking about Jesus’ metaphor of the grain of wheat. Seeds are put into dark, dank holes and covered over. They are drowned with water and then left to rot in the soil. Only then, after enough time has passed does the fruit come. It’s never pleasant but it’s good.