Dying for a harvest
“I tell you the truth: 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” (John 12:24).
In the context, Jesus had just learned that some Greeks were asking to interview him, a sign from God that the hour his death had come. His ministry to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” had filled to overflowing. The hour was approaching when the word would go out from Jerusalem and all the nations would stream to it, saying to one another, “Come let us go up to the mountain of the LORD….” (Isa. 2:2-3; Micah 4:2).
Earlier in the week, when Jesus cleansed the temple, he quoted Isaiah 56:7, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Mark 11:17). Hearing this proclamation may have been what prompted the Greeks to approach Him. Here was a Jewish teacher open to God-fearing Gentiles.
Realizing the un-engineered beginning of this momentous new phase in his outreach—a definite work of God—Jesus told his disciples, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23).
Then Jesus uses the similitude about the falling grain of wheat to explain to his disciples the necessity and the tremendous blessing of his coming death. But He does not merely contemplate this one grain, for He immediately adds, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.”
As the first grain of wheat, Jesus willingly “fell to the ground” and died, producing many other grains, which also fall to the ground, producing many more grains, and so on. As Tertullian says, “The blood of martyrs is seed.” And yes, there is also the daily dying to self as we strive to set our interests and needs aside to serve others. That also yields much fruit under God’s blessing.