Today we read that although Jesus “had done so many signs among them, they still did not believe in him” (John 12:37). This is surprising. The main reason for unbelief was the “difficult” things he said, such as, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (verse 25).

What did Jesus mean? Sometimes those struck down with debilitating diseases or a grievous injury may say they hate life, although even in those situations many still cling to life hoping for improvement. Most probably think this life is all there is, and ‘where there’s life there’s hope’, as the saying is.

By contrast to these human attitudes consider the attitudes of those who really believe in Jesus. “Though he die, yet shall he live”, Jesus told Martha concerning her dead brother Lazarus. And Martha replies, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (11:24,25). This is followed by a strange statement from Jesus. “Everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (verse 26). When we think in the language of the Bible, the meaning soon becomes clear. In passages like 1 Corinthians 15:6,18 we read of believers who “have fallen asleep” – they die with the hope of resurrection. When Jesus told his disciples “Lazarus has fallen asleep” (11:11), they misunderstood what he meant.

Similarly, the word “hate” needs to be understood in the way Jesus uses it! Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). We all need to ask, ‘What are the most important things in life for us? What tops the list?’ If we love the things this life offers, then where do we stand in the sight of God? The more we really love God, our life in this world is seen it its proper perspective.