John 12:20–33 (NRSV)
Verse 20Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. Verse 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Verse 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Verse 23Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Verse 24Very 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. Verse 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Verse 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
Verse 27"Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Verse 28Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." Verse 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Verse 30Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Verse 31Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. Verse 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." Verse 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
A week into the COVID-19 shutdown last year, my family planted some tomato seeds inside for our garden. The seeds were some that “Doc” Runge, an old friend, gave me many years ago, descended from originals received from a German immigrant after World War II—“German tomatoes” he called them.
I had little hope that those now 15-year-old seeds would germinate, but miraculously almost all of them did. Those “German tomato” plants produced abundantly from July until October— long after the nursery-bought ones had died—so many that we gave away the extra. And, yes, we saved some seeds.
Jesus says that unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone, “but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Those old tomato seeds, useless until we put them in soil, once broken open, produced abundantly.
In this Lenten season, perhaps we should ask, “What in us (pride, grudges, envy, hate) needs to die and be broken open so that God can bring forth abundant life for the sake of the world?”
Jesus, it is hard to follow your call sometimes, especially when it means letting go of things that we have held onto for too long. Give us grace to die to ourselves daily so that we might live for you and for your coming kingdom. Amen.