David Arscott considers Jesus words about seeds and concludes that we are called to die, but that death really means transformation. God meant us to be fruitful, bringing life and nourishment – however dirty and dark the soil.
Jesus said ‘Very truly I tell you, 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.’
The seeds I picked up on a walk after this year’s harvest seem an embodiment of hope, and they are. In its hard case each seed is packed with the chemical codes and vital ingredients for making a new plant. The important thing is that, for the hope to be realised, the seed itself has to stop being a seed. In Jesus’ phrase, it has to die. That idea of dying is scary. If we are the seeds, and Jesus seems to be suggesting that we are, then most of us are happy to stay as seeds. It takes a brave seed to want to fall into the earth, to give up being what it is, to become something else.
But let’s look at that dying more carefully. Does the seed really die? Isn’t it rather transformed, gently and slowly, into a plant? Doesn’t it become the hope it embodies, the thing it was always meant to be? Because growing into plants is what seeds are for.
So what does Jesus say to us? When we fall into the soil of the real world with its dirt, smells and dampness we run a huge risk that we will lie and rot. But that risk-taking is our calling, it is a first step into who we are meant to be. The world will not stifle us, but it does demand a response with its need for practical love and the light of God’s truth. When we obey his call God will help us grow into the beautiful, fruitful plants he designed us to be. It is not death, it is a new sort of life because when Jesus died it was not the end. He promises us the same transforming power of his Spirit to give us perpetual, abundant new life. And the place we take up that new life is in the grimy reality of the everyday fallen world where he is building his kingdom.
And remember that Jesus goes on to say in John 12:26: ‘Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.’
David Arscott is one of Livability’s Community Mission Advisors and is based in Leeds.