UNLESS A KERNEL OF WHEAT FALLS AND DIES

John 12:20-30

Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. 23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 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. 25 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. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. 27 “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. 30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine.

First, Some Greeks

We find that there are some Greeks who have come all the way from Europe.  This is amazing because during this time Greek and Roman culture was dominant.  These men came from a seemingly superior nation, which also ruled over the Israelites.  However, these men overlooked all the time, money, and even danger to travel all the way to Jerusalem to worship according to the Law of God in the Hebrew Bible.  This was not a small thing.  Also, now that they were in Jerusalem, they heard about all the great things that were being done by this Rabbi named Jesus.  So they searched out Jesus’ disciples and asked to see Him.

I can see that these people are special.  The whole world, at the time, was pagan.  This could be compared with the United States.  Let’s consider that the whole country is pagan, accept for one small state, the state of New Jersey.  There they are Christian while the whole country is secular and filled with the ideas of Atheism and Progressive thought.  However, some people travel all the way across the United States, from California, because they hear about this Bible teacher.  Surely what these Greeks did was not a small thing, and religious people, who saw this, were most likely very impressed with these Greeks.

However, once they have a chance to meet Jesus, he proceeds to talk about his cross, followed by the parable of the dying seed.  Here the point seems to be that these people are sincere, making real efforts to pursue the truth, wherever it leads, even if it is against the way they grew up.  When I consider this with respect to Christianity today, in the United States, I see something amazing.  Most Christians today would give great credit to these Greeks, calling them zealous new believers.  However, Jesus does not give them credit, but gives them a message.  To me he is saying – because you are sincere it means that you can handle the real message.  And that message is the cross, the way he was living, and the way that those who initially accept, can live in the way that pleases God.

So, he says – I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  To me this reveals that God’s desire, apart from dealing with the simple fact that we are sinful, is that we would follow the path of a seed that can be planted and change form, from a seed to a plant that produces fruit which can produce more plants and more fruit.  This reminds me of the parable of the mustard seed, which starts out small but grows to be the biggest plant in the garden.  It starts out small, like these Greeks sincerely giving up their time and money, in order to worship God as it says in the Bible.  But I see that Jesus’ message is that this should graduate into those who are planted and can change from seeds into plants that bear more seeds, or that can reproduce allowing one to obey one of God’s original commands for mankind – be fruitful and increase in number.  This is an amazing command to me because you don’t need to be married to obey it.  But, the point is that God wants us to change from sinful human beings who live for only themselves to those who live for God and produce fruit.  Otherwise I see Jesus’ point deals with the problem I see today.  Today many are like these Greeks, initially.  They come to Jesus, they hear his teachings, they enjoy worshiping God, but later, after the newness of becoming a believer, wears off, they remain a single seed.  At this point I am correcting my testimony on Wednesday and this part reminds me of my situation.  I must be careful because initially I enjoyed the newness for about 5 or six years, but now with more responsibilities and less time, I see that my struggle must be to rejuvenate that newness.  Lord, I have been struggling to do this with fishing, through which I found two new students so far this semester.  But I need to be careful because I see what happens to new believers.  They don’t change but remain the same, while merely adding some religious activities, like obeying some commands in the Bible, maybe becoming a little more moral, which just makes life a little nicer.  Now, as I am writing this on campus, Monday night, in between fishing trips, I see something.  I notice that without this process, Jesus is alluding to, through the dying seed, a person feels like they have changed when they have not really changed.  They remain mostly unchanged instead of becoming like Jesus, which I see is my goal.  My goal is to be like Jesus, instead of as I am, and I find that this is practically much more involved than I thought.  For instance, I should become more like Isaac, who revealed the character of God, different from that of a sinful human being, which I have seen in myself.  I see that Jesus is always struggling to shepherd people into a beautiful life, and more than just the thoughts of a beautiful life.  But that life cannot be made through a few life additions, even religious ones.  Again, as I am sitting here on Monday night I see that I need to struggle not just to start a new life, as Abraham did, but to be changed even because of remaining in that life, never leaving it.  How can the dentist clean my death if I don’t stay in the dentist chair?  Right now I see that this message is huge and deep, and I could write on this topic, what I see right now, 50 or more pages, easy (but for the sake of everyone here I won’t do that).  But I see that Jesus is revealing how human beings can become more than religious people, like the Pharisees were.  He wants each person to be capable of loving God, like Mary and her perfume, because this person can be used by God to live a life of meaning and purpose, and produce a lot of fruit for God and His kingdom.  But I see that in order for this real thing, which God wants, to come true there needs to be two things that happen.

First, I see Jesus says that the seed, or a person, must fall to the ground.  I know that fall to the ground means to plant, because a seed cannot change into a plant unless it is placed inside the soil.  There, no longer moving around, it can come to be changed.  The second thing that must happen is that the seed must change from a seed to a sprout.  Whenever we study this passage I think of popcorn.  Inside the seed there is something else, there is stuff on the inside.  A seed has stuff on the inside, energy to enable the seed to change into a sprout.  But, the seed must die or in other words it must change, like a caterpillar into a butterfly.  If it does not change, even once it is planted, then it will be absorbed into the ground becoming no more.  Instead, I see that each person must find a place to remain, the place God calls, and once there, that person must use their energy to die.

This all sounds rather strange, but when I think about what I have learned over the years, this teaching of Jesus makes all the sense in the world.  I was new to Christianity when I started studying the Bible (in 2004); my perspective came all because of being Catholic.  I was 24 and just out of the Navy.  As a Catholic I did not care much about Christianity and what it was.  So, when I started studying I was surprised how clearly it could be understood.  Then, I was surprised that my faith was not about me and my desires, of which God would help me, but it was about God.  All of these things made sense and it was amazing to learn for myself, since before, everything I knew came from what others told me.  But now I could understand them for myself.  So, as I started studying I learned that Jesus did things, great things, not because he was God, but because of his obedience, his faith, and his relationship with God; I noticed that Jesus lived his life, not in a way that was impossible, but as something that he wanted those who followed him to do and have also.  All of this was amazing to me, because Christianity, for the first time, was becoming real.  Then, as I studied more, I learned about Abraham.  Abraham left his life in his country or his comfort zone, and left to go and be in a place where God would show him.  I see that God wanted him to be planted.  And now I see why God helped him to remain in the Promised Land, the place where God brought him to be committed or planted.  Then, through different challenges he remained and eventually you can see that his old person died and a new man, who loved God, came to grow up and bear fruit (In fact I can see that his love for God allowed him to chose God even over his own family and only son).  So, Jesus wants each person, who believes, to fall to the ground and die, allowing Abraham and each servant to produce many seeds.  So, I see that this truth was there from the beginning, and it makes perfect sense.  And now, Lord, I see that I need to relearn it in my current life situation; it is hard but through your words I am learning how to do this again.

Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single seed.  But if it dies it produces many seeds.  For me remaining in one place has really been about my appreciation to God for his grace of Bible study and calling through his words.  But, as I write this I see that I need to die so that I can produce many seeds.  It is Tuesday night, about 1930 or 7:30 pm and I am working on my testimony after fishing and having a Bible study from an invitation I gave last week.  The student came and enjoyed.  The invitation came after I was tired and went out fishing again.  As a result I came to have a Bible study with the second new student for the semester.  My prayer topic was to teach two new students this Semester, and now I have done that, but I need to pray for at least two regular students, for every week, when I come to campus on Monday and Tuesday.  Lord, it has been difficult to come after work every Monday and Tuesday, but I see that I must not just fall to the ground, but I must die so that what you have in store for me may come true.  Not to mention that, when I really do this, the results are better than if I would live to myself.  This I have seen over and over again.

I then see that Jesus explains the dying seed as a man who hates his life.  Jesus says – 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.  I see that when invited by God, a person has a choice, either they can become a seed that is planted and dies or it can remain a single seed, always making themselves the center of their life.  As I am meditating on this, Wed Morning at 0520, it is clear that this is talking about one’s willingness to repent.  As I consider this and look back over the last 14 years, I wonder why I have resisted change so much.  Repentance is not easy, but when I have finally accepted what God is doing, my life has gotten much better.  But it is so hard.  When I think about this I consider my children who I have to fight with in order to get them to follow my directions, directions that are really good for them.  I can see how often I make life hard on myself and even my shepherd, for no reason other than my pride.  So, Jesus says – anyone who makes decisions to protect his pride will lose his life, while the one who rejects pride in decision making will save his life.  Lord, I am sitting here early in the morning and I want to laugh at myself because it is so simple, yet I have so much trouble, still.  Why? Why do I resist what is so good for me?  It is so easy to agree with this teaching, as I sit here, right now.  But when the time comes for me to accept it, everything changes.  For instance, I am in the dance for a portion of the Christmas drama.  It has not been easy, especially when things have been changed.  I didn’t realize what I was doing until I saw another person who was not favorable toward correction in regard to another church program.  As I watched the person I realized – do I look like that? Wow, that is not good, and I realize that real change is so much different from my desire or even my acceptance of what the Bible says.  I can see that the depth of my sin is great, and what I need is real change and real healing.  And now I can see why it was so obvious to Jesus to give the teaching to the sincere Greeks about the dying seed and the importance of hating one’s life.  In fact, I can see this again in the next verse.  Jesus shows that what he is talking about is the process of real life change, not religiosity.  The real thing is hard, which is why Jesus says – my Father will honor the one who serves me.

Wow, Jesus reveals, to me, that God was really anxious from the moment he gave his promise to mankind in Genesis 3 verse 15.  I see right in this passage that God created mankind so he could be pleased with them, for them to be fruitful and fill the earth with holy people, and to share the beautiful love and fellowship that the Trinity enjoyed in eternity.  But when that was lost through Adam loving his life, God did not give up but struggled so that even sinful people, like me, could be honored or honorable.  Actually, as I write this I am touched because I see that God wants to honor me, but I am not honorable.  However, Jesus came down from heaven and revealed the life that restores the honor that was lost, and helps us to regain the beauty that human beings should have.  I can see that no matter what I lose or sacrifice to be that dying seed I must do it because it is God’s chance for me to be the person I have always wanted to be.  I have seen it in others, but God wants others to see it in me.  The only way for this to happen is to follow Jesus.  And it is hard, so hard that God will honor me when I do this, if I do it no matter the cost.  I see God’s love for me in this, his grace for me, and Jesus’ struggle that I could even be here right now making choices to live this way.  With this in mind I will continue to pursue a fruitful life, even spending as much time on campus during the Christmas break as possible, and praying that the student that I scheduled for after the break will attend again and grow, grow to be a seed that this plant produces according to Jesus’ desire for me.

Second, Glory

Then, I notice that even Jesus realizes that his life as a dying seed will be really difficult.  So difficult that Jesus’ heart was troubled.  Wow, he was having moments where the reality of his impending sacrifice was so heavy that he felt he could not carry it.  In fact, I see that he wanted to ask God the Father to take away the burden.  As the Sunday message said – Jesus knew that he came to this moment as the purpose of his life on earth.  But even though he knew the truth about his life, the burden was great.  He did not want to die as the Lamb of God, but in the same breath he said – it is for this very reason I came to this hour.  I see that he remembered his purpose, given by God, and never allowed the reality to overshadow that.  Sometimes fishing on campus is really hard.  I don’t know why that after so many years, there are evenings when I want to stop fishing and go home, or just work in my testimony.  However, I try to remember my new identity as a fisher of men.  I should not be afraid because Jesus called me and told me not to be afraid, because I will catch men, as the root of my identity.  When I remember that, I pick up new courage to go fishing more, with more zeal than I feel.  I try to fight against that which goes against my God given purpose, and according to this passage – I must die so that I can produce what God has in store.  Otherwise I see that I will only produce wasted time and, later, seeds of regret.  But, when I push past my feelings, I find that I am free, happy, confident, and every part of life is better and innocent.

At this Jesus said – Father, glorify your name.  Jesus said this with exclamation.  I see that his attitude was one that always tried to please God, whether he felt like it or not.  And he made sure to back it all up with obedience that fought against his human feelings.  I see that this produced a life that caught God’s attention, and even caused God to speak out loud.  Wow, he caused God to break an unwritten rule – never speak out loud where sinful human beings can hear it.  However, I am reminded of Paul and Silas in prison; they were beaten and mistreated, but they still prayed and sung out to God.  There God shook the prison, which even opened all the doors.  I see that I should look to push through difficulties and hard decisions so that I can have the attitude to bring glory to God.  Who knows that I may get God to break his rule and enter into the physical world to show his approval, even of someone like me?  I see that this is glory, and glory is what I need to enter into the kingdom of God and meet God face to face.  Lord, may I live to follow Jesus and his teaching, in order to glorify God and even receive glory and honor, from God, according to your desire for myself.

One Word: Live as a dying seed that brings real glory to God

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Sabaaa

“Anyone who makes decisions to protect his pride will lose his life, while the one who rejects pride in decision making will save his life.”

This was a statement that really made me think during the testimony sharing…

Jsheep

This was very eye opening John. Very enjoyable and encourages me to have the attitude to bring glory to God in my life!!!😁

remfeng

Looking forward to that 50-page testimony!

(B)lasting (A)gent (O)range

Hi John,

Thank you for being my shepherd, the one God used to save me. I am forever indebted to you. I only wish I could be a better sheep, then and now.

I didn’t read your testimony since it was too long… Remiel wasn’t serious when he mentioned the 50 pages testimony.

Zoe and Hannah are so so cute.

bao

SpringofLivingH2O

Thank you for sharing your testimony, John. As I read, I saw how everything Jesus said and did are connected. All his words were very purposeful and packed with meaning. I was also encouraged to “use my energy to die.” I want to be changed, I want to be the person God created me to be, and I want to produce many seeds. For that, I need to listen to what God is telling or showing me and trust him with my life.