Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. John 12:24 kjv
It should be the aching desire of any true believer to bear fruit; much fruit, for the Saviour. Jesus spoke these words to his disciples while contemplating his own upcoming death. John is the only book in the New Testament where the scripture tells us that the soul of our precious Saviour was troubled.
When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, John 11:33 kjv
Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. John 12:27 kjv
When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. John 13:21 kjv
It is probable that when Jesus wept in John 11:34, it was not because Lazarus was dead, for he knew that he would be alive and well shortly. Nor is it probably that he wept in sympathy with others that were weeping; same reason. Jesus wept because he looked at what sin had done to those he had lovingly created…those he came to redeem. He wept because he saw the tyranny of death, and knew his own subjection to death was nearing, where he would not just die, but would take upon his own body the sins of the world.
There is an important lesson for all of us here, and it concerns fruit bearing. We have to die in order to bring forth fruit. In John 12:27, Jesus was clearly troubled. It is one of only three times the scripture records him as troubled. All three had to do with death. In John 11:33, we find him groaning in his spirit, and troubled at the raising of Lazarus. In John 13:21 He was troubled in spirit over the knowledge that Judas was on the cusp of betraying him. If you have ever been betrayed by someone you love you will just be able to peek over the wall at the hurt our Saviour experienced as he contemplated the events that would lead to his death. Did he know Judas would betray him? Yes. Did it still hurt? For certain! Is it a mystery? Without any doubt! Can we understand? No.
Death was for Jesus Christ, the hardest thing he ever did. To become the essence of that which is completely and diametrically opposed to his very nature was an act that commanded his complete obedience to his father. Did his human will desire to find another way? That much is clear.
Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. Matthew 26:38 kjv And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. Matthew 26:39 kjv
The one who taught us that we should bear fruit, paved the way, and shined a powerful light on the process. Christ, who described himself as a “corn of wheat”, died and was planted; three days later he sprang up from the grave and began bearing fruit. We are likewise exhorted to bear much fruit.
It will be the hardest thing you will ever do in your entire existence on this earth; death to self. How it terrifies us! It goes clearly against our nature! We can study it, read about it, understand it somewhat in our minds, but when it creeps up on us and demands our submission, we suddenly realize that it takes no concern with our dreams, longings, or desires. It is uncompromising where it deals with our strong desire to live. Death is the end of our existence on earth. Death to self is the end of our existence to self. The corn of wheat goes into the ground. Self is no longer. Death to self cares not that we shed, if we could, great drops of blood. It destroys any hope we have of producing something of value, like fruit for his glory, without experiencing the surrender of all we are and all we have to the unknown hand of death to self. It is that unknown quantity that causes us to debate the issue within ourselves. It is the extreme reluctance to trust the fulfillment of our earthly hopes with the one who gave all for us. Just as my precious Lord Jesus shrank away from the cross, where he would become sin, we cringe at the thought of entering our own garden of Gethsemane. But go we must; and follow him to Calvary; our own private Calvary, where we die to all we long for; die to what we feel we could do best for him. We come to his table without agenda, and cry out with Paul, “what would you have me to do”. Do I really want to go?
The answer is, yes; that is if you want to bear much fruit. It is a required course. It will be accomplished in some of us because we want his will more than life itself. That strong desire led to self-death, which we were not expecting. But Christ made it clear. Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it cannot bring forth fruit.
So, you may find yourself in Gethsemane. A decision must be made to follow him to Calvary. You will die to self, but despair not. There is a happy ending.
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2 kjv
There is Joy! Although Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, there were moments of joy in his life before Calvary. There is no doubt he felt joy when the tenth leper turned back and gave him worship and thanks. When Mary Magdalene was rid of the devils that plagued her, her love for Jesus brought him joy. Likewise you will experience joy in your service for Christ. But the joy Jesus desired was much more than that. It was a joy worth going to Calvary to obtain. It was to eventually see all of us redeemed with him in glory with glorified bodies worshipping, thanking and praising him. We can only imagine!
So what’s with the dying to self thing? You will resist, you will try to find another way. You may decide to “opt out”. You will still go to heaven. You will still get a new body. So why should I submit to this terrifying ordeal? I’ll close this article by saying there will be all eternity to wonder why you feared to enter into that which you Saviour entered, when you had the clear understanding that it was:
- Necessary to bear much fruit
- An invitation by Jesus Christ to “take up your cross” and follow him.
This short article is clearly an invitation to follow Him no matter where it leads, and no matter if it ends in complete death to all you want, to become all he wants you to be.