Read John 12:20-26.
Last night Kathy and I learned something amazing from a plumber friend of ours. He showed us how the plumbing in a house with a concrete slab floor can be invaded by roots. To me this seemed impossible. A concrete slab floor seems impenetrable. But our plumber friend pulled back a certain bathroom fixture and there they were: roots. These roots, he told us, “sniff” out even the tiniest of leaks, travel under the slab, and then climb up the outside of a pipe until they find where the water is coming from. We were astounded.
I share this because today’s blog post from the book of John is about seeds (and roots, and plants that bear fruit).
During the Passover, there were some Greeks who approached Philip and they said, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” So Philip went and told Andrew, and then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.
When they tell him, Jesus says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me he must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”
In response to the news that these Greeks desired to see him, Jesus says that his hour has come and that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
In 1963 they found some seeds in the food stores at Masada. These were the 2,000 year old food stores of the Jewish zealots who killed themselves while they were under siege so they wouldn’t be taken captive by the Romans. Today in Israel, inside a laboratory, scientists are growing a tree (related to the date palm) from one of those 2,000 year old seeds. (National Geographic)
If you think about that seed, alone, but preserved, for 2,000 years, you can see a great example of what Jesus is talking about. For 2,000 years that seed remained undisturbed. That’s what I want so much of the time, to be undisturbed. I just want to be left alone to study what I want to study, and to learn what I want to learn. I just want to be left alone to surf Reddit, read books, and watch ESPN.
But if you and I keep ourselves insulated in that way, we’ll never bear fruit.
For 2,000 years that seed from Masada remained undisturbed, and as long as it remained undisturbed, it remained a tiny seed. But in 2005 it died and was buried, inside that lab in Israel. In 2015 it became a father. Scientists used it to pollinate a modern day female date palm, so now it can reproduce.
For you and for me, fruit is born when we let go of our desire to remain undisturbed. Fruit is born when we die to our own desires and live for Jesus. Fruit is born when you surrender your life to him and let him have you, all of you.
Those Greeks said to Philip, “Sir, we desire to see Jesus.” Those Greeks, they traveled all the way from Greece! Their journey reminds me of the roots my plumber friend talked about. Those roots were remarkable in their desire for water and what they did to find it. That’s how it is for me. It’s when I’m seeking Jesus with everything I have that I’m able to “fall into the earth and die.” When I live for myself I might find ways to remain undisturbed, but I won’t bear fruit.
A grain of wheat is tiny, and it remains tiny if it doesn’t die. But if it does die and fall into the earth, it can produce more wheat that can produce yet more, until it’s yielded a great field of wheat.
You and I are the same.
When we’re all about self, we’re tiny, we’re small.
Small of soul.
But if we’ll die, for Jesus’ sake . . .
John Roach, ‘Methuselah’ Palm Grown From 2,000-Year-Old Seed Is a Father, National Geographic, 2008
Eddie the Plumber, 2017
Image of wheat field via pixabay, public domain