Falling into the Ground and Being Lifted up
The imagery of John 12 is most striking and arresting. The background is important to see. The Lord Jesus has entered into Jerusalem to the Hosannas of the people. The enthusiasm of the populace was intensified by the recent raising of Lazarus (12:17, 18). Added to all of this, the Gentiles who were present expressed their desire to see Christ (v 20). They approach Philip with their request. In turn, he consults with Andrew. Together they then bring this request for an interview to the Lord Jesus Himself.
But to be able to ‘draw all men’ to Himself (v 31), He must first provide that righteous basis upon which they can come. It is here that the Lord Jesus speaks of His death under several different metaphors. It is the hour when the Son of Man is glorified (v 23). It is the display of the Man Who did not love His life (v 35) but freely gave it. It is an hour of deepest grief and sorrow (v 27). It is the hour when the Son of Man will be lifted up (v 32).
One of the most graphic and telling metaphors, however, occurs in verse 24: “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die … .” Imagine that you were given the opportunity to describe your own self-sacrifice. What imagery would you employ? A heroic, dramatic death? An emotion filled, eye-riveting, crowd-awing event? But to describe yourself as a corn of wheat? A small, seemingly insignificant seed, falling into the earth and unnoticed by the masses of men? Hardly the kind of thing that makes headlines! Yet that is what the Lord chose to use to describe His death. He was a corn of wheat, falling into the ground and dying.
The greatest act in the history of the universe, the most significant deed ever done, the most important event ever recorded – yet He likens Himself to just a corn of wheat. His humility and lowliness are marked even in His view of His own sacrifice.
But the truth of verse 24 goes beyond the description of His sacrifice. We see also the desire of His soul. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone. But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” Would He enjoy eternal bliss with His Father alone, or would He bring others into the joy of that relationship? To do so would mean a cross and suffering. Yet He chose to be the corn of wheat falling and dying, that He might bring forth fruit.
1. Look at the three scenes of chapter 12: the House in Bethany, the streets of Jerusalem, and the approach of Gentiles. Is there the suggestion of Christ as the glory of the Church, the nation of Israel, and the nations?
2. Verse 27 suggests another conscious choice that the Lord Jesus made: to be saved from the hour or to glorify the Father’s Name. In what sense did the cross ‘glorify’ the Father’s Name?
3. The corn of wheat possessed life. By giving that life, He made it possible for life to spring from an otherwise barren and lifeless earth.