posted on Jun, 12 2015 @ 05:07 PM
“Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” –John
Jesus was fond of using the phrase “Truly I say to you”, but this “double” version, with the repeated AMEN, is found only in John’s
He seems to use it to mark the statements which he wants people to remember.
The background here is that Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem for the final scenes of his life.
A party of Greeks, who must have been proselytes or potential proselytes, are also in Jerusalem to take part in the feast.
They speak to Philip, expressing a desire to meet Jesus. “Philip” is a Greek name, so there may have been Greek elements in his upbringing, which
would explain their choice.
Philip consults Andrew, and they approach Jesus together (vv20-22)
The discourse that follows begins with the words “Jesus answered them”.
The more obvious interpretation is that he’s answering Philip and Andrew, though it’s possible that he’s addressing the Greeks after their
request has been granted. Otherwise, the request is left hanging.
Either way, the implied question is “Does the teaching of Jesus have anything to say to the non-Jews?”
The implied answer is “Yes, but only on the following basis”.
Something, at any rate, prompts Jesus to talk about his forthcoming death, which is the necessary precondition for the mission to the Gentiles,
extending his message to the world at large.
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (v23).
In the language of this gospel, that is a reference to the Crucifixion, which is the beginning of his glorification.
The next verse has an image for the connection between his death and the mission to the world.
A grain of wheat which “dies”, being planted in the ground, “will bear much fruit” (the many grains on the growing ear). Otherwise it would
This is a special case of the metaphor used by Paul in 1 Corinthians ch15.
In this picture, believers form the “body” of the new plant which the death and burial of the grain has allowed to grow.
They gain life entirely from that first seed.
In other words, they are not merely imitators of Jesus, but completely dependent upon the power of life which he transmits to them.
In the next verse, he has a warning for the “much fruit” themselves, that they need to be i]willing, at least, to allow themselves to be
“planted” as a fresh batch of seed.
He repeats a paradox which is found in all the other gospels, usually in the form “He who keeps his life will lose it, he who loses his life for my
sake will find it”.
Here we find the stronger recommendation that the believer should “hate” his life. As in the case of “hate his father and mother”, the word
“hate” means “be ready to give up, lose contact with”.
Anyone who wants to serve him and follow him must be ready to offer themselves in the same way.
This is confirmed by what he says to the disciples a few chapters later;
“Remember the word I said to you; A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (ch15 v20).
So “Where I am, there shall my servant be also” applies to his death in the first instance.
Nevertheless, it also follows through into his resurrection.
They will share the same rewards; “If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him”.
And the implication is that they in turn will “bear much fruit” (vv24-26).
Jesus turns back to his own approaching death, and the perturbation of mind which this brings.
Can he pray to be taken away from this crisis? No, because this is what he came to do.
He will pray rather “Father, glorify your name” (v27).
A voice from heaven replies that the Father has already glorified his name (in the preceding works of Jesus) and will glorify it again (in the events
which are about to follow).
This voice is in itself an act of “judgement”, because it divides the onlookers into two groups.
There are those who can recognise that “an angel spoke to him”, and others who can only hear thunder.
This foreshadows the fact that the crucifixion will be the “judgement” of the world in general, dividing it in the same way.
Also “the ruler of this world” will be cast out.
The forgiveness of sin, which is what the cross achieves, overthrows that power which depends upon the existence of unforgiven sin. This event is
dramatized in the “casting out of Satan” in Revelation ch12.
The event is “now”. It is about to happen.
In what is almost his last word, Jesus comes back to the connection between the crucifixion and the mission to the world;
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (v32).
The crowd has a question, prompted by what they have been hearing, but based on his overall teaching.
On the one hand, they have grasped that what he says about himself and his authority amounts to a claim to be the expected Christ, though he does not
respond to direct questioning on the point.
The closest he gets is his response to the Samaritan woman; “I who speak to you am he” (ch4 vv25-6).
And their understanding of the Christ is that he “remains for ever”.
On the other hand, he tells them that “the Son of Man must be lifted up”.
He said that in the discourse with Nicodemus, and perhaps on other occasions.
They have just heard him say “The Son of Man must be glorified” and “I must be lifted up”, which amount to the same thing.
They may not understand much that he says, but they do understand that “lifted up” is a reference to his death.
They need to have grasped that point, in order to set up the puzzle which confronts them now.
How does he reconcile the apparent contradiction between “I am the one who remains for ever” and “I am the one who must die”?
And while they are on the subject, who is this “Son of Man”, anyway?
They realise that he means himself, but why has he chosen that title? (v34)
Jesus makes no attempt to answer those questions.
He could have referred them to his previous teaching to explain both sides of the puzzle.
In the very first chapter of this gospel, he identified the Son of Man with “Jacob’s ladder”, the means of communication between heaven and
That is, of course, what he becomes, more visibly, when he is “lifted up”
And it is after the Resurrection that he “remains for ever”.
Instead of explaining these things, he makes one more appeal for them to turn to “the light” while they still have the chance.
It will soon be the case that he, the Light, will no longer be in their company.
“While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light”.
Better to join the other “sons”, who have received and believed in his word, than to wander alone in the darkness (vv35-36).
But if they do become “sons of light”, they will be joining the rest of the fruit which the buried “grain” will be generating.