Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly I say to you unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains only a single seed but if it dies it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, but the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me and where I am, there my servant will be also.” (John 12:23-26, ESV)
I’m looking for any kind of comfort or inspiration during this pandemic. One thing that is inspiring happens every year at this time: spring; in particular the new life that emerges as the weather warms up.
As far as I know the government has not yet canceled spring. Soon we will be enjoying green grass, beautiful flowers and new leaves on the trees. Farmers will be out in their fields planting crops that, by God’s grace, will grow to produce food for the world.
It is no wonder that the celebration of Easter is often described in terms of seeds and plants.
Scripture describes Jesus as the Seed. In fact, Scripture’s first description of Jesus is as the Seed. God says to the devil after the devil has led Adam and Eve into sin and death, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
The Seed or descendant of the woman, namely Jesus, would crush Satan’s head.
Then in the text listed above, Jesus talks about his own death and resurrection in terms of seeds and plants: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly I say to you unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains only a single seed but if it dies it produces many seeds.”
And Paul uses this same imagery in I Corinthians 15, the great resurrection chapter of the Bible:
But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body…So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. (I Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-43, ESV)
Seed planting is done with great anticipation. We anticipate what the seeds will produce when they reach maturity. It was not so with the planting of the Jesus. Oh, there was anticipation but it was not the kind of anticipation that should have happened.
The women who came to the tomb that first Easter morning anticipated that they would have to anoint Jesus’ body for burial. Since the day on which Jesus died was a Friday and the Jewish Sabbath began on Friday evening, those who helped with Jesus’ burial were not able to complete the Jewish burial rites. So the women anticipated finishing Jesus’ burial rites on the day after the Sabbath, the first day of the week Sunday.
The disciples anticipated the possibility of the end of their lives if it was discovered that they were the hand-picked disciples of Jesus. That is why they were hiding behind locked doors on the day Jesus rose from the dead.
The enemies of Jesus anticipated that Jesus disciples might cause trouble. They feared that Jesus’ disciples would come and steal his body and pretend that Jesus had risen from the dead so they posted a guard at the entrance to Jesus’ tomb.
But as surely as the seed comes up in the spring, Jesus rose from the dead, never to die again. And all who believe in Jesus will also rise to eternal life.
Now the seed that lives among us is the Word of God. Through the seed of God’s Word God creates faith in Jesus through whom we will live forever.
Here is how Isaiah puts it:
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11, ESV)
And thanks to Jesus we know what God’s purpose is. His purpose if for all of us to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.
The Apostle Peter writes:
“You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” (I Peter 1:23-25, ESV)
And James 1:21 says, “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” (ESV)
We sing about that seed in our hymns. In one of our hymns we sing, “The seed of his teaching, receptive souls reaching, shall blossom in action for God and for all.” (Lutheran Service Book, 643, v. 1)
“Almighty Father, bless the word, which through your grace we now have heard, Oh may the precious seed take root, spring up and bear abundant fruit,” we sing in another song. (Lutheran Service Book, 923, v. 1)
These passages all talk about the seed not just coming to life but also bearing abundant fruit. We may be tempted to shrink back in this time of pandemic but instead now is the time to bear abundant fruit: unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains only a single seed but if it dies it produces many seeds.
Jesus could not have produced anything unless he had fallen to the ground and died. Can we his followers do any differently? We are buried with Christ through Baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father we too may lead a new life. And that life consists of bearing abundant fruit for the Lord.
These are tough times so it’s important to look at the positives. Spring is coming. There are signs of it starting to emerge everywhere. It can’t be canceled. And even better, it is a clear reminder that Jesus rose from the dead. By the power of God’s holy, eternal word we are born again to eternal life and to bear abundant fruit.