“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.”
See this raspberry plant?
(Not the fruit. We’ll get to the fruit later.)
It’s not looking too good. I mean, it’s brown. It’s brittle. It’s leaning right over into the dirt, for crying out loud.
It’s a little on the ugly side.
And those berries – red, juicy, flavourful morsels –
(Stay focused. We’re talking about the plant, remember? I promised you we’d get to the berries a little later.)
The plant itself is dry – much shorter than it should be. See, it formed last year during a drought, so its failings are really to be expected. Raspberries are biennials, which means the plant grows and develops for one year and then fruits the next. So this specimen is hitting its fruiting maturity after a full growing season last year, a growing season in which it didn’t get what it needed to develop properly.
In contrast, here is a developing raspberry plant in its first year. It’s green. It’s upright. It’s lush. Next year, it will send off a shoot or two and reproduce itself into new plants while it produces sweet juicy berries at the same time.
Okay. Now we can talk about the fruit.
Those berries though. Juicy, tender morsels of sweetly tart deliciousness! A rich harvest, indeed.
Now we get to the good stuff.
The truth is, the whole ‘produce a new plant while simultaneously producing a crop of fruit’ thing takes its toll on the plant.
It’s working hard!
So if it gets a little on the ugly side, we can certainly excuse it.
And friend, it gives me hope.
Sometimes we don’t get what we need. We aren’t plants, but we experience drought in the form of personal losses, relational crises, financial strain, or stress.
In short, we may be ‘a little on the ugly side’. Not at our best.
But we can still produce a harvest of righteousness!
In fact, the teachings of Jesus include this gem in John 12 that reveals a startling truth.
Unless we ‘die’, we can’t produce a harvest.
In order to produce both new plants and delightful fruit, raspberries give up their rights to look fresh and beautiful.
They get the job done by redirecting their energy stores from survival to reproduction.
They give it their all.
Let the truth of this sink in.
I don’t have to be at my best to produce fruit.
I can be damaged. I can be brittle. I can be leaning with my face into the dirt, and I can still be useful in the kingdom of heaven.
This is the power of God working in a life, that where we are weak, He is strong. And it is in our weaknesses, our pain, our struggles, when we are a little on the ugly side, that God can work in and through us to produce something of lasting value.
I believe Jesus was speaking of His death in this passage, a voluntary gift that would produce a harvest of transformed lives. But I also believe He was speaking of us – the ones who would follow in His footsteps – and promising us that as we die to ourselves, as we lay down this one life we’ve been given for His sake, we will produce a rich harvest.
And we don’t have to look perfect or be perfect to do it.
That does my heart good today.
Keep producing fruit with me?
Father, we have a job to do. We are to spread Your truth to others and live in such a way that we would impact those around us. But we are weak and frail and part of the walking wounded from living in this fallen world! Bless us with a rich harvest as we seek to serve You every day. Amen.