Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains alone, but if it dies…
Inevitably this verse takes me back to my inauguration sermon and my reflections on the parable of the mustard seed, where one tiny seed grows into a great bush. That parable speaks of the kingdom of God starting from Jesus alone yet becoming a great bush, a community, which is a place of welcome and refuge for all.
Here too in this verse Jesus is the seed that has to die if it is to produce much fruit. His death is to be the source of life. It has been humbling in my travels around the diocese since the inauguration to regularly be shown the growing beans given out at the end of the service. This natural death and resurrection is built into the fabric of creation. Jesus regularly picked up images from the natural world that illustrate the truth of God’s ways and kingdom. We neglect reflection on nature at our peril; God still speaks through it.
The image of bearing much fruit speaks of multiplication. It is a theme that Jesus speaks of elsewhere. The Cross, the death of Jesus alone is the source of multiplication.
THE PLACE OF MULTIPLICATION
12.19 ‘all the world has gone after him’, then immediately, ‘some Greeks arrive seeking to see Jesus. For Jesus this is a clear indication that his mission for the world is reaching its climax. Gentiles, non Jews arrive being drawn to the light.
in being lifted up Jesus says, ‘I will draw all people to myself’
the grain bears much fruit
For God so loved the world, the light of the world, the bread of life, the good shepherd ‘ I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also.. One flock, one shepherd.’
Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad (From the Cross comes holy, godly growth. We can manufacture growth in other ways as church but it will not be holy or godly. True spiritual multiplication always has to flow from the cross.
This leads me on to reflect further on three other purposes of his death that Jesus speaks of in these verses.
THE PLACE OF FULFILMENT
Jesus saw the cross as the fulfilment of his purpose. ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified’
At the wedding in Cana when Mary pointed out to her son that they had run out of wine his response was ‘My hour has not yet come’. But then he did act and his first miracle occurred.
When challenged to go up to Jerusalem to show himself to the world Jesus words were ‘My time has not yet come’ and ‘My time has not yet fully comnotched John remarks ‘His hour had not yet come’ (John 7.6,8 & 30. John repeats the words again later (John 8.20) ‘His hour had not yet come’.
But now the hour has come. John will repeat this with emphasis at what we call the first verse of chapter 13 (John 13.1) ‘Jesus knew that his hour had come’.
There is a deep sense here that the core purpose of Jesus was his death. He came to live out a human life certainly; he came to teach, to heal, to deliver from evil but supremely he came to die. His death is the fulfilment of his purpose. This will be the place of glory a theme to which we will return tomorrow)
THE PLACE OF JUDGMENT
‘Now is the judgment of this world, now will the ruler of this world be cast out.’
We struggle with talking about judgment. Yet in society we continue to recognise the need for it. When terrible crimes have been committed we cry for justice, and therefore for judgment. Sometimes the cries spill over from justice into vengeance; sometimes forgiveness is seriously misunderstood as meaning glossing over or forgetting – neither works as justice. Judgment is about truth. It is about a true assessment and appropriate response to the crime committed. Here Jesus is clear that there is a need for judgment on the world, and on the one who misleads the world and leads it away from its true ruler, God. The cross is the place of judgment. It is the place where evil is overcome and cast out. Jesus will be the victor over evil.
Indeed if there is no victory over evil we live in a world that lacks hope of forgiveness and transformation. The cross is the place of judgment and of victory.
THE PLACE OF EXAMPLE
there is a uniqueness in Jesus death. He is the one sacrifice for all time. He dies once and for all. His blood brings about forgiveness and redemption.
Yet his cross is also our example for living. We are called to live the same way as our Lord. The way of laying life down; the way of service; the way of death. This is the way of living by God’s purpose rather than our own; the way of glorifying God not ourselves. The way of the cross is the way for all Jesus’ followers.
As we reflect on the one who is the grain of weed that dies and therefore multiplies bringing fulfilment, fruit and victory for all the world. May we respond by simply saying, in the way of the cross, Lord, I will follow.