Some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me. John 12: 20-26 (NLT)
A paradox, according to Funk & Wagnall’s dictionary is "a statement seemingly absurd or contradictory, yet in fact true." We don't understand something, yet it works anyway.
A man sitting in his office late one evening needed some help spelling a word. He went to the corridor and yelled. "Is anyone out there?" A voice came back. "I'm here." The man asked, "How do you spell simultaneous?" After a pause the voice answered, sounding farther away; "there's nobody out here."
The gospel itself IS a paradox – it seems absurd that God would die for his creation. The Gospel is full of paradoxes, and we are called to live LIFE IN PARADOX.
We may be like the disciples, willing to see what we prefer, and what we hoped-for, while we ignore the point Jesus really wants us to see. In the disciples’ case, Jesus had just entered town and cleaned house at the temple. The disciples and the crowds saw a "Son of Man" - conqueror of men. The Greeks were noted for their thirst for knowing ...they wanted to see this ruler. Palm Sunday was a triumph, and Jesus was a hot commodity. Had the kingdom of God really come to Jerusalem?
This is the picture of paradox ... the disciples expected a crown; the rabbi from Nazareth kept talking about a CROSS.
Our text is a continuation of the terms of Jesus' paradox - absurd statements that are absolutely true; in this case, life only comes through death!
Jesus helped them understand this paradox with an illustration of wheat “dying to the ground”. It is more than an agricultural lesson; it’s the whole basis for spiritual life. The fact is that wheat is ineffective when it is stored-up in a barn somewhere; it must be planted in order to bring forth fruit.
And the application, spiritually-speaking, is that new life in Christ comes only when we bury our personal control over life. The word Jesus used for what happens to the seed, being “planted" is strongly-connected to the word "prostrate" as in the humble, worshipping soul bowing before his superior. If we wish to have eternal life there must be (through faith) an eternal death of the pride of life. And that death, says our faith, is in the life-giving power of Jesus Christ.
It is something you “release”. And it’s similar to the banking system. You have some money and wish to open a bank account. You decide on a local bank. You look it over; you study its' financial statement. You check the references of its board and officers.
Up to this point you have been operating on reason and intellect. But then you take the plunge and hand your money to the teller. The teller gives you a receipt. THAT takes faith (especially with some banks)!
The leap of faith is to count the old life dead: to say with Paul that you crucify the old life, and accept Christ’ finished work of salvation, His offer of new life to those who believe; His death - your new life.
What I have attempted to describe is the very beginning of eternal life as you entrust yourself to Christ for eternity.
What is simpler and clearer to say – but incredibly harder to do – is remember that we not only start-out the Christian life that way – but we live every single day in that paradox of death-bringing-life for the rest of eternity. Trusting Jesus never ends!
Live the paradox; it’s how you stay close to Jesus!