Signposts: Daily Devotions

Thursday, March 31

Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies it bears much fruit.”
—John 12:24

Jesus is not teaching his disciples about agriculture—far from it.

He is talking to them about death—or about life, depending on how you look at it. Jesus is talking to his followers in Jerusalem during the last week of his earthly life. He knows that he is about to be arrested and probably executed. His ministry has shaken the foundations of religious and political establishments and he has become a threat to both groups.

He seems to want his disciples (then and now) to know something that will change their lives forever: that in order to live they are going to have to die—and maybe more than once.

Most of us have learned this. We can look back and realize that when we “died to” ambition, addiction or adulation we became more and more the people God created us to be: free, accepting, courageous and loving.

Like seeds or grains of wheat, we had to fall into some pretty dark soil, and remain there a while, before we began to grow. Much of the time this felt like suffering, and we wondered if anything good would ever come of it.

This is not to say that all suffering is good or that all of it is redemptive. As Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “There is nothing redemptive about famine, genocide, or incest.” The suffering Jesus talks about in this passage involves choice. If we choose to live for safety, security, and society's approval, we may not grow.

But if we choose to delve deeper, to explore our inner lives more, to speak what we believe, to risk ridicule or exclusion, we may die many small deaths, but in the end we will grow—and flourish.

And that's the kind of life, Jesus says, that is worth dying for.

Most gracious God, give us courage to open ourselves to death so that we can truly live. Amen.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2006.