“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.” John 12:24
It’s a spiritual principle that God has built into the fabric of the universe. One dies so that many might live.
It happens on many different levels. On a human level, it can mean a death that raises consciousness to some danger that could take the lives of others if something isn’t done. Someone dies on a rollercoaster drawing attention to a flaw in the design or execution that is corrected so that no one else will have that tragic fate.
Chris Cornell, 1964-2017, lead singer of the Gen X grunge rock group Soundgarden, committed suicide this week. Here is the creator of a sound that defined a generation — never mind that the sound represented cynicism and depression. That he would take his life at 52 says something.
He was a dad, a philanthropist, a grown up. He had just gotten his group back together and recorded a new album. He had celebrity. He was making lots of money. What went wrong? Most would say it was his depression that he lived with most of his life — a depression not uncommon to his generation — the “middle child” trapped between the retiring Boomers and achieving Millennials. Could his death raise awareness among other Gen Xers that depression is not something to be trifled with — that it is a mental illness that can be treated and his peers need to take notice? It may be that lives may be saved as a result of Chris losing his.
But Jesus was talking about something deeper and longer-lasting than even this. He was talking about a spiritual reality of death to life. Ultimately He was talking about His own death and resurrection — a death that bought eternal life for all who believe. It was the whole reason He came to earth and He was announcing that in this illustration when He called up of the life-cycle of a grain of wheat.
Yet there is still another application of this principle that takes place in the everyday life of the believer. It is what Paul referred to when he said, “So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (2 Corinthians 4:12). He means here that dying experiences — what he had just defined in previous verses as afflictions, perplexities, abandonment and calamities — happen to us because it is through these trying experiences that the life and power of Christ is released in us so that others may benefit. Death in us means life in you.
Are you going through a dying experience today? Take heart. Life will come from it — lots of life — indeed, “a plentiful harvest of new lives.” It’s the way God works and it’s built into the universe.