24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. — John 12:24-25
An awestruck Martin Luther once remarked: “If you could understand a single grain of wheat, you would die of wonder.” He’s right, I think. Not that I understand the grain of wheat, but I have always been in wonder of seeds. The wonder all begin for me as a little boy on a cotton farm as each year I was a witness to the mystery of planting, and then the harvesting. Then in my own little garden I would bury seeds in rows like little graves, and watch in wonder as a few days later they were raised to life.
On the eve of his death Jesus points us to the wonder and mystery of seeds. You can almost see Jesus’ words they are so visually clear: Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
It all begins with the seed dying. It is laid into the ground. Covered over with dirt and buried. Days pass. We wait. And then life burst forth, but not just life, but life multiplied. Could it be that the secret to life is dying?
Could it be that dying is the key to your life and my life?
I’ve lived long enough to experience many “deaths” even in the midst of life. There is the death of a dream. There is the death of a relationship. The death of a career. The death of one’s health. The death sometimes, even of our hope. And I’ve also lived long enough to experience how God unfailingly brings new life and fruitfulness out of the deaths.
This is a fundamental mystery of life that Jesus points to – that dying is essential to living. It is in dying, in literally being broken apart, that we begin living. Francis of Assisi knew this well as he prayed: “It is in giving that we receive; it is in dying that we are born again.” The Apostle Paul calls us to live into this mystery: “For if we have been united with Christ in his death, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:5).
Yes it hurts to go through these various deaths. It can be agonizing, heartbreaking, to be broken open. But in the midst of our pain and our loss we know and we believe that in the midst of all of this that God is up to something. We cling to our confidence that the heavenly Father will bring life and multiplied fruitfulness out of our loss.
Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Keep the faith! Tim Smith