What is This Thing About Wheat?

Scripture Reading: John 12: 24-33 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. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

Do you remember running through the sprinkler when you were kids? You want to do it. You want to feel that cool, refreshing feeling right after you do it. But it’s that first blast of cold, paralyzing water that takes your breath away that you dread and so you put it off. And then, finally, you hold your breath and run through it as fast as you can. That’s almost what we have a tendency to do with the cross. We dread it as we slowly walk toward it, dragging our feet a bit, not really wanting to experience it again—the memories and reliving of the horror, and the violence, and the suffering, and the pain. And as we approach, we then let our minds run quickly through it toward Easter morning.

But now is the time for the Son of Man to be glorified. For, as Jesus says, unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just single lone grain, worth nothing; but if it dies, it bears fruit and lives on. You see, wheat is known as a caryopsis, meaning that the outer “seed” and the inner fruit are connected. The seed essentially has to die so that the fruit can emerge. If you were to dig around in the ground and uproot a stalk of wheat, you would not find the original seed. It is dead and gone. In essence, the grain must allow itself to be changed.

So what Jesus is trying to tell us here is that if we do everything in our power to protect our lives the way they are—if we successfully thwart change, avoid conflict, prevent pain—then at the end we will find that we have no life at all. He goes on…”Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. And whoever does this, God will honor.” This is the only time that the Gospel speaks of God honoring someone. And we begin to see the connection unfolding. Whoever follows Jesus through his death, will become part of his everlasting life.

Jesus wanted us to understand not just that he was leaving, not just that his death was imminent, but that this journey to the cross was not just his to make, but ours. Now is the time to walk with Jesus to the cross.

And, yet, we still struggle with the whole meaning of the cross. We still struggle over why Jesus had to die at all. Why couldn’t Jesus just figure out a way out of this whole sordid thing and stay around? The world needed to hear more from him. Because then it just would have stayed a seed. But, you see, because Jesus was willing to die, was willing to be changed; God could raise him from the dead and give fruit to the world.

And the cross…whether you believe that God sent Jesus to die, or that human fear and preoccupation with the self put Jesus to death, or whether you think the whole thing was some sort of colossal misunderstanding…the point of the cross is that God took the most horrific, the most violent, the worst that the world and humanity could offer and recreated it into life. And through it, everything—even sin, evil, and suffering is redefined in the image of God. By absorbing himself into the worst of the world and refusing to back away from it, Jesus made sure that it was all put to death with him. By dying unto himself, he created life that will never be defeated. And in the same way, we, too, are baptized into Jesus’ death and then rise to new life.

This is why we walk this journey toward the cross. This is why we spend time there before waking to the Easter lilies. This is the paschal mystery—that true life comes only through journeys through death where we come to understand who God is for us. Christ is died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. God has given us a new consciousness and a new way of seeing life and in an act of ultimate divine love, the cross became God’s highest act of Creation. It is God’s recreation of everything. “But if it dies, it will bear much fruit.”

So go forth toward the cross, die to self, and bear much fruit in Christ!

Grace and Peace,


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