The Gospel of John: a commentary & meditation 
"If the grain of wheat dies, it bears much fruit"

Scripture: John 12:20-26

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Beth-sa'ida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."  22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew went with Philip and they told Jesus.  23 And Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. 24 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.  25 He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him.

Meditation: How can we meet Jesus in our lives and introduce him to others who are searching for him? John tells us that some Greek travelers who came to Jerusalem for the Passover wanted to meet Jesus. They were not Jews, but were devout seekers of God.  It was not unusual for Greeks to travel the then known world.  Greeks loved to journey and discover new things.  When these Greeks heard of Jesus, they wanted to meet him personally, but didn’t know how to approach him.  So they did something a Greek would feel comfortable doing.  They found a sympathetic looking insider named Philip, a disciple of Jesus whose name happened to be a Greek name, and asked him how they could meet with Jesus.  Philip surprisingly didn’t know what to say.  Andrew fortunately stepped in and personally introduced these foreigners to Jesus. How can we help people discover the Lord Jesus today? One of the best ways to introduce people to the Lord is to invite them to "come and see" the Lord present among his people when they gather for prayer, bible study, and the "breaking of the bread" at the Lord's Table. 

Jesus’ response to giving an audience to these Greek visitors points to the reason why he came to Jerusalem at this Passover Feast.  Jesus knew that this was his “hour” -- the time of fulfillment when he would be glorified through his suffering and death on the cross.  John in his gospel account points out that is was not only the Jews who were seeking the Messiah, but foreigners as well.  Jesus came to offer his life as an atoning sacrifice not only for the chosen people of Israel, but for all nations as well.

Jesus told his disciples a short parable about the nature of seeds to explain the spiritual significance of death and rebirth.   His audience, including many who were rural folk in Palestine, could easily understand the principle of new life from nature.  Seeds cannot produce new life by themselves.  They must first be planted in the earth before they can grow and produce fruit.  What is the spiritual analogy which Jesus alludes to here?  Is this, perhaps, a veiled reference to his own impending death on the cross and resurrection?  Or does he have another kind of "death and rebirth" in mind for his disciples?  Jesus, no doubt, had both meanings in mind for his disciples.  The image of the grain of wheat dying in the earth in order to grow and bear a harvest can be seen as a metaphor of Jesus' own death and burial in the tomb and his resurrection.  Jesus knew that the only way to victory over the power of sin and death was through the cross.  Jesus reversed the curse of our first parents' disobedience through his obedience to the Father's will -- his willingness to go to the cross to pay the just penalty for our sins and to defeat death once and for all.  His obedience and death on the cross obtain for us freedom and new life in the Holy Spirit.  His cross frees us from the tyranny of sin and death and shows us the way of perfect love.
If we want to experience the new life which Jesus offers, then the outer shell of our old, fallen nature, must be broken and put to death. In Baptism our “old nature” enslaved by sin is buried with Christ and we rise as a “new creation” in Christ.  This process of death to the “old fallen self” is both a one-time event, such as baptism, and a daily, on-going cycle in which God buries us more deeply into Jesus’ death to sin so we might rise anew and bear fruit for God. There is a great paradox here.  Death leads to life.  When we "die" to our selves, we "rise" to new life in Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to "die" to oneself?  It certainly means that what is contrary to God's will must be "crucified" or "put to death".  God gives us grace to say "yes" to his will and to reject whatever is contrary to his loving plan for our lives.  Jesus also promises that we will bear much "fruit" for him, if we choose to deny ourselves for his sake.  Jesus used forceful language to describe the kind of self-denial he had in mind for his disciples.  What did he mean when he said that one must hate himself?  The expression to hate something often meant to prefer less.  Jesus says that nothing should get in the way of our preferring him and the will of our Father in heaven.  Our hope is in Paul's reminder that "What is sown in the earth is subject to decay, what rises is incorruptible" (1 Cor. 15:42).  Do you hope in the Lord and follow joyfully the path he has chosen for you?

"Lord, let me be wheat sown in the earth, to be harvested for you.  I want to follow wherever you lead me.  Give me fresh hope and joy in serving you all the days of my life.”

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(c) 2001-2005 Don Schwager