Some claim Jesus didn't know what He was talking about in saying that a seed or kernel dies in order for something to grow. Some simply state in their own simple-mindedness that seeds don't die to sprout. Scientifically that isn't true. A seed is actually hardly ever truly seen. We see the outer shell and call it a seed, but inside the outer shell is a small life giving substance that can only sprout and come out if the outer shell dies and ceases to exist. This is to say that both the shell and the substance inside are living. However, they are living symbiotically. The small substance that will eventually produce an apple tree, wheat, or corn will never reach its potential until it stops living in symbiosis with the outer shell and breaks free, separates itself, and braves the dampness and darkness of the soil. Therefore, wherever you see a tree, plant, or crop grow, something died and something lived.
Jesus is referring to Himself in this verse which is yet another point of controversy for those who don't won't to believe in the resurrection. In this parable of sorts, Jesus is basically referring to Himself as the first fruits of the dead, something Paul would later coin in his letter to the church of Corinth and Colosse. Before humanity could have eternal life and reconciliation with a perfect and holy God, someone had to die and be put in the "ground" in order for life to sprout up. Paul writes in Ephesians that before Christ ascended, He first descended to set the captive free and to take the keys of death, hell, and the grave removing all authority from Satan in these areas. He was the seed that died that life may grow.
But if these weren't controversial enough, the overall principle is by itself. It's backwards like much of the Kingdom thinking. Want to be first? Go to the back of the line. Want to be great? Become a servant. Want to have lots of things? Be faithful with a few. In yet another backwards logic, we are told that for some things to truly live, for real growth to happen, something has to die. This is unthinkable to us especially in westernized society. Life is supposed to be one big ladder. You climb it one rung at a time. When you achieve one height, there's another one waiting for you. The truly successful in our eyes are those who continue the upward trajectory despite the pressures that come with the highs. We're also trained to remain pessimistic so that no matter how high someone gets, we're ready to pile on if something knocks them off the ladder. The problem is that we've adopted that mindset in the church. So if someone falls off the ladder of life and success, we assume like Job's friends, that the person sinned, missed God, did something wrong, or simply came back to earth because it surely wasn't going to last. But what if the divine took place? What if it wasn't a mistake or a sin that knocked someone off a ladder, but instead it was a divine kismet between heaven and earth? What if it was God Himself? And what if it was God and it was His desire to do so and He considered the fallen person greater and more successful after the descent than before? Does your head hurt? Mine does.
It's backwards to think this way, but this is precisely what John 12:24 is about. Of all the ways to rescue mankind, Jesus Christ lowered Himself to that of a mere human, endured ridicule and rejection, allowed His own creation to spit on Him, mock Him, hurt Him, and kill Him, all because He wanted to defeat hell. No one writes that kind of story in our society. We're overcomers. We're overachievers. We're invisible. And Jesus was all of those things, but He didn't appear as such on Calvary or even many times before that during His ministry. Something has to die before it or something else can live.
Think on that. Sometimes our dreams have to die before we can really achieve the true desires of our hearts. Sometimes our hearts have to be broken so they can be reassembled piece by piece into the proper alignment for love and receptivity. Sometimes our expectations have to be shattered so we can see a more realistic picture of who we are, who others are, and who we're supposed to be. Sometimes churches have to die so they can be reborn to accomplish something great for God. Sometimes memories have to fade so there will be a desire to make new ones. Sometimes we have to hurt so that the next time we think we don't have anything to be thankful about, we'll remember we do. It's plain. Sometimes things have to die to grow and live. And with that being the case, I'm asking myself a question that I'm scared to answer. If Jesus said things have to die to grow and live, why do I spend so much time putting dreams, visions, works, and ventures on life support hoping to somehow salvage the seed when the real life and the real growth are dying to burst forth?
I've been on a journey for almost a year now. It's a scary one. It's one where I've purposefully and inadvertently at the same time started challenging and questioning what I believe, who I am, what I desire, what I want to do, and other deep and nonsensical questions. I'm not who I was three years ago. I'm still just as misunderstood and sometimes despised, but I'm not the same. My outlook on things is different. And it appears its all been a giant ruse to get me both knowingly and ignorantly to where I am today. That point is a place of wondering what to let live and what to let die. What needs to be cultivated further? What needs to be buried and broken down to grow? I'm on that journey. Wherever it leads and whatever it reveals, I'm sure of one thing. For real life and growth to happen, a seed has to die. I don't waste another moment or another ounce of passion trying to keep a seed on life support. Why should I be afraid of the fall from the ladder when the thin oxygen of the higher places on the ladder may do the trick as well?