Jesus replied,The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, 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 12:23-24
Jesus prefaces His teaching here with words that require our focused attention:
Truly, truly, I say to you... Whenever you see these words, pay close attention because what follows is of great importance:
Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone. What does he mean by that? He is talking about himself. He is the grain of wheat. Unless he is willing to die, unless he goes to the cross, which he sees looming in the immediate foreground now, his whole purpose in coming to earth will have been wasted, he will remain alone.
But if it dies, it bears much fruit. He sees the Greek people who were asking for him as the first fruits, the symbol of the great harvest of earth for which he came.
Perhaps he thought something like this:
These Greeks have asked to see me. What does it mean to Picture a grain of wheat in your mind. Can you see that grain, so tiny and yet so obvious? Outwardly you can see what it is, but can you really see it? No. In order to see it you have to plant it in the cold, dark earth. If you watch it, eventually a green sprout will appear, then the blade, then the plant, then the stem, and finally a head. At last it turns golden; the harvest has come. But still, have you seen everything in that grain of wheat? No, not yet. You first must plant the grains from that golden head again and again. At last, when you stand one day beside a shimmering field of wheat, rippling in the breeze, golden in the sunshine, you can say you have seen a grain of wheat. You have seen all the possibilities of it; all of it has been unfolded and now is visible to the eye. That is what Jesus meant. The world would not see the full outcome of his work and of his life until he went to the cross.
If he had not died on that cross and been buried, we probably would not know any more about him than we know of any other great religious leader, like Buddha, Mohammed, or Confucius, and we may not have heard of him at all. So meager were the results of his teaching that only a relative handful stood with him to the end. But because of the cross he was able to do something he could never have done otherwise: He was able to share his life with millions of people. How do we explain men like Luther, Calvin, Knox, Zwingli and others who changed the entire Western world during their lifetime? How do we explain the impact of men like the Wesley brothers? How do we explain the change in the hatchet-man of the Nixon administration, Charles Colson, who changed the prison system of this country in the name of Jesus? How do we explain Solzhenitsyn, Mother Teresa, and millions who daily evidence an altered life, a changed outlook? All has come about because of the cross and the confirming resurrection of Christ. God is saying to us in this account that the only way to true glory is to die.
Lord Jesus, thank you that you were willing to die that a harvest of souls would come to fruition. Teach me to take up my cross daily, that I, too, might bear fruit.
Jesus taught and demonstrated the stunning reality that His death was necessary to our re-birth into His Resurrection Life. Have we caught the life-vision of the seed that surrenders to death so as to realize the joy and fulfillment of reproducing His Life in and through us?