A KERNEL OF WHEAT
John 12:20-36 KV: 24
“I tell you the truth, 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.”
Thank God that through last week’s message we could learn the heart of King David for God and the summary of the entire book of Psalms. It was a warning to keep ourselves planted near the living water at all times to grow strong in the word of God.
This week’s message is the message from Jesus to the people right before his arrest and crucifixion. It is not a rallying cry like in Braveheart but Jesus gives them a principle to live as kernels of wheat that falls to the ground and dies so that many others may live. This isn’t just Jesus’ motto but it is the parable that best exemplifies his life and the life of a Christian. Let us go into the Bible and learn from Jesus how our lives can be kernels of wheat and die to produce many seeds for the glory of God.
Part I – A Kernel of Wheat for all (20 – 26)
In the beginning of this verse Jesus had just entered Jerusalem during what is known as the Triumphal Entry. Many people in the crowd shouted and cheered for Jesus to come and be the king. But there was a small group who waited and came to see Jesus personally. Look at verse 20. “Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast.” These Greeks were truth seekers who came to worship at the Passover. They perhaps had heard of Jesus and wanted to meet him. Many people want to meet Jesus or look to him to learn some great wisdom or teaching. The Greeks came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee (21). Verse 21b reads, “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.”” These Greeks had a spiritual desire to know Jesus personally which was a great work of God in its own right. 1 Corinthians 1:23 tells us, “… but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…”
How did Jesus respond to their question? Jesus took the coming of these Gentiles to mean that his work was now complete. So Jesus answered aloud in verse 23, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” What does it mean to be glorified? Everyone wants to be glorified. One old quote on my wall calendar says, “That nothing is so sweet to a person’s ear than the sound of his own name.” But Jesus would be glorified in a different way. The word “glory” can mean to “reveal” or it can mean “humility”; to be humble. Jesus’ glory came in his incarnation and humiliation. Jesus came to serve.
Jesus’ life purpose was to glorify God through the cross and his resurrection. Jesus’ glory came when he suffered in our places so that we might be set free from the power of sin and death. God glorifies Jesus’ name through this and it glorifies God who is merciful to sinners. Jesus’ glory is different than man’s idea of glory. Jesus continued on and spoke about two things that a disciple of Jesus does.
First – A kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies and raises many seeds.
Jesus goes further in verse 24 describing how he would be glorified, “I tell you the truth, 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 knew that all around him were farmers and everyone was familiar with the concept of planting a seed in order to grow more plants. Some seeds you know are great for planting. How many people here have a garden? Last year I planted some lettuce seeds and grew many lettuce leaves!
But Jesus was not just giving Home and Garden tips. This wasn’t Jesus’ motto or some slick idea, but it was the summation of his life. Jesus lived as a kernel of wheat and died. He was illustrating a clear principle. So for us what does it means to die? What does it mean to produce many seeds? I am glad you asked. To die as a single seed means to give up our comfortable lives – it means to turn from our lives of sin. As humans we tend to live selfishly. But not Jesus. He preached the gospel and called all men to repent. This made him unpopular and eventually he gave his life for this message. Through this 12 disciples were raised, which in turn could bring 3,000 people to faith and then down through time myriads of other people.
In modern times, those who fall to the ground and die as kernels of wheat are those who use their life and time and skills to teach about Jesus to others. They live a Christian life holding onto Jesus’ teachings. When we follow Jesus, God uses us to produce many seeds for his glory. Think about how you came to this church building today. One person had to die to give up his time to invite you and help you to understand the Bible. Maybe one person invited many people in this way. Or one person drove you. You too can do the same. But if you remain as a single seed, then you cannot be a blessing or help anyone.
There are many fine examples of this parable I know. Vladimir Point Livitsky, is one of them. He lived as a single seed in the Ukraine as a long haired lady’s man and musician. A man with no cares in the world who couldn’t even be bothered to visit his dying father in the hospital. But he met Jesus Christ personally through studying the Bible in college. His heart was changed. He saw Jesus’ example of dying as a kernel of wheat to raise many seeds. He spent all his time sharing this life changing gospel with the people of his university. He invited so many people to study the Bible and so many people became disciples of Jesus in the Ukraine ministry when he became a kernel of wheat to give his time and care for them. Eventually families were established through the work of God in his life. Now God made his family a mission family to Turkey, a Muslim country, for the glory of God!
Second – The man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
Jesus goes on in verse 25, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Jesus clarifies his example. The man who loves his life will lose it. The man who enjoys sinful pleasures and doesn’t use his life for Jesus, well, you will lose it. There is no way around this fact.
But there is good news. The man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternity. We all are born with the desire to live forever. Jesus is telling us we can live with him eternally or we can live apart from him eternally. In this case the word ‘hatred’ is referring to priority and focus in life. There are some things in life that we all hate. Some hate mayonnaise, spiders, snakes, or zombie movies, things like that. But what is Jesus referring to? Jesus is referring to things like sin. Do we hate our sins? Do we hate our lack of relationship with Jesus? Do we hate doing things that the Bible disapproves of? Or do we love these things? Jesus clearly tells us the man who hates his life will keep his life forever in heaven with Jesus.
Verse 26 gives us a hint on how to see if we truly hate our sinful lives or if we love our sinful lives. Verse 26, shows us if we are living a life as a dying kernel or if we are a proud seed. “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” One cannot serve Jesus if he does not follow him. Jesus paints a clear picture here – no room for misunderstanding. If you are a Chicago Bulls fan you don’t wear Los Angeles Lakers gear right? You don’t pick fruit off of a thorn bush right?
“… and where I am, my servant will also be.” Where was Jesus? He was always teaching the Bible, he was always caring for the poor, he was always encouraging his disciples with good words and not bad jokes and foul language, and he was always praying to God. Are we doing these things with our time? One has to wonder, am I where Jesus wants me to be?
Often we hesitate because we think that we might lose too much when we follow Jesus. But Jesus promises that His father will honor the one who serves Jesus. It is great to think that God will honor you when you follow Jesus. Let us remember that giving your life as a kernel of wheat can be the greatest thing you have ever done in your life. God will honor you with eternal life, as you give your life to raise many seeds.
Part II – Father, Glorify your name! (27 – 36)
Jesus knew he was facing his coming arrest, betrayal, and crucifixion. Humanly he knew he would have to suffer just like this parable. He would have to die in order to produce many seeds. This brought anguish to Jesus. Look at verse 27, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” Jesus could have asked God for another way out. Which way did he choose? In verse 28, Jesus said, “Father, glorify your name!”
Wow! Jesus chose to glorify God’s name as his life focus. This is confirmed in John 17:4, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” Jesus prayed to God to glorify God’s name. This was the very reason Jesus came to the earth to glorify God’s name. Jesus decided to accept God’s will and take the cross of suffering to glorify God above all else. Verse 28 is Jesus’ prayer topic. Do we as Christians have this same prayer topic? Are our lives used to glorify God’s name or our own name?
Look at verse 28b, “Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” Jesus lifted his prayer to heaven and God heard and answered his prayer. Through Jesus’ obedience to God’s will God would glorify his name. Hebrews 5:8-9 reminds us of this, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” God publicly accepted Jesus’ prayer and glorified him and would glorify him again through his resurrection and ascension into heaven.
After God accepted Jesus’ prayer and life direction Jesus explained to the people what this would mean for them. Look at verse 30, “Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.” The voice of God came for all the people to hear so that they would know to honor the Son. God only speaks rarely and when he does you better listen. What did it mean that Jesus would be lifted up? Jesus was telling them the manner of his death and then his resurrection and ascension into heaven. Just like when Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, all who look to Jesus when he is lifted up will be saved. (John 3:14-15)
This is great news, that anyone who looks upon Jesus can be saved. But it was bad news for one person. Any guesses? Verse 31 says, “…now the prince of this world will be driven out.” The prince of this world is Satan. He had control over people with the ultimate power of sin and death. But when Jesus would be lifted up, that power would be crushed, fulfilling the prophecy in Genesis 3:15, 16. After Jesus was lifted up, the prince of this world would have no more power, he would be driven out setting us free from the power of sin and death.
Also Jesus’ lifting up allows all men that believe in Jesus to be drawn to Jesus. Jesus himself will bring those to him that believe through his death on the cross. This means that we do not live in fear anymore but live victorious lives, giving our own lives as a kernel of wheat like Jesus.
The crowd that was with Jesus did not understand that Jesus was speaking of his own death. The crowd remembered back to their Saturday School class when they were young and what they had learned. They said in verse 34, “The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, “’The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?” The crowd was expecting Jesus to become king, not to die on the cross. They asked him if he was talking about someone else.
Jesus must have been sorry that the people did not hear the good news of his parable and his prayer. So Jesus gave them one final invitation in verse 35 and 36. “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light before darkness over takes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.” Jesus encouraged the people in the crowd to leave their lives of sin and follow him to become sons of light. When it is dark we cannot see where we are going. We think we know where we are going, but then we trip over someone’s shoes or a painting or a laptop someone left on the ground. Jesus wants to tell them do not look for your own way or try to keep our own life, but give it up for Jesus and keep it for all eternity. When you walk with Jesus you walk in the light and can see his purpose for your life.
John 12:24 happens to be my life key verse, my 2015 key verse, marriage key verse, the reason behind getting married by faith, and the reason behind living at the Bible House we had for many years and participating in this ministry. This verse leapt out of a world mission report magazine as I read about struggling missionaries in Eastern Europe 9 years ago. They had lost everything but joyfully held onto this verse while in the mission field raising disciples of Jesus. The Lord challenged me through this. God showed me that I loved my life too much in this world.
One of the first things that helped me to challenge my single seed status was message and testimony writing training. To be trained to write and rewrite material and have people critique your writing while everyone else is out having fun is like dying. But through this kernel of wheat training it helped me to be able to focus on the word of God and grow as a man of God.
I have chosen this key verse, John 12:24, each year so that I can hold onto it as a reminder of what God has called me to in this life. It is not to be rich and live an easy life. The desire to be a single seed is so strong in my life. I have to call on the power of Jesus just to overcome that desire everyday to be a single seed. There is a desire to just life a nice quiet life with my wife and have a small family for our own glory. But Jesus says, “… unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains only a single seed.”
Jesus gave his life. He died on the cross and shed his blood so that those after him could produce many seeds. Jesus’ blood of 2,000 years ago produced me as a believer. Now being 35 years old and no longer a kid; the calling to give my life as a kernel of wheat is greater and louder. There were small dreams I was holding onto, but now I realize there are some things that I will never get to do and that is okay, because God has a better plan. To die, to give one’s life as a kernel of wheat is hard. But now I see the need and the call.
Conclusion * – Today we learned that the disciple of Jesus gives his life as a kernel of wheat so that many seeds can be raised. The disciple of Jesus follows Jesus and hates his life in this world. We learned that Jesus came to glorify God’s name with his life. If we are disciples then our lives will be the same. May God bless us all to be kernels of wheat this year and die and raise many seeds for DuPage County and all the areas in which we live. May God bless us to double our DuPage ministry in this year 2015.