The Corn of Wheat

John 12:24.

It is very evident that chapters 11 and 12 of this Gospel go together, and form a distinct section in the presentation of the Person of the Son of God. They contain, in fact, God's threefold testimony to His beloved Son: first, as Son of God in the raising of Lazarus (11:4); second, as the King of Israel (12:13); and, lastly, as the Son of man. (v. 23.) Man, even His own people, had rejected Him, but God had provided that there should be an ample testimony to Christ in every character in which He was presented. We may remind ourselves, moreover, that if the Father has committed all judgment to the Son, it is "in order that" all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father"; and hence - solemn thought - "He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him." (Chapter 5:22-23.)

The occasion on which our blessed Lord used the figure of the corn of wheat is both interesting and significant. There were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast; and, having heard of His fame, they desired to see Jesus. What their motive might have been is not here the question; but, whatever it was, Andrew and Philip tell Jesus what the strangers desired. In reply to the communication of the two disciples, the Lord took the opportunity of unfolding the character of the pathway to His future glory in this world, when as Son of man, according to the teaching of Psalm 8, all things will be put under His feet. "The hour is come," He said, "that the Son of man should be glorified. 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."

It will be observed that no further mention is made of the Greeks. As Gentiles they were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenant of promise. Proselytes they might have been; but, even so, they could have no connection with Christ while in this world, except indeed they had come as the centurion or the woman of Canaan, as having no claim, and casting themselves in their need upon His goodness and mercy. They had no right whatever to the promises; and hence it was that Jesus, the corn of wheat, must die and rise again for the introduction of a new order of things, in which, through grace, they could have part and be in subjection to Christ as the Son of man. It is difficult for many Christians to comprehend this fundamental truth - that Christ, by His death and resurrection, has terminated the old order and commenced a new, an order begun and established in His own resurrection; for He is the Beginning, the Firstborn from the dead. It is in that, and the scene in which it is found, that our characteristic blessings are found; even as the apostle has written, "If any man be in Christ, [there is] a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Cor. 5:17.)

In our scripture it is quite true that the Lord refers to His future glory in this world as Son of man; but the point to be observed is that the pathway to it lay of necessity through death. Man, as man, could have no links with Christ; man, as man, had to be judged in the cross, had to disappear from the eye of God, after having come up before Him for judgment, before the Second Man could take His place according to the counsels of God, as Head over all things to the Church. It is an immense deliverance to the soul to perceive this blessed truth - that the first man has gone in judgment, that he has been totally displaced by the Second Man out of heaven, and that now there is only the Second Man before the eye of God, and that He is forming a new race of His own order to be in association with Him for ever, a race every member of which shall be conformed to His own image, that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren.

Having laid this down, we may be permitted to widen our survey, and to point out that Christ had to pass, was under the necessity of passing, through death to secure everything purposed for Him and His own hi the counsels of God. The principle is here in this scripture: "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone. If in His own blessed perfection He had departed to the Father by any other way than the cross, He had gone alone, Himself still the Object of the complacent delight of the Father, for He was, and must be, ever in the Father's bosom; but still He must die if He were to have companions. It could only be if He died that the corn of wheat would bear much fruit; for apart from the cross, God could not have been glorified concerning all that man was and had done. It lies indeed upon every page of Scripture that everything - God's glory, the exaltation of Christ at the right hand of God as Lord, with the name which is above every name, power over all flesh, universal supremacy, Head of His body the Church, redemption with all its unfathomed treasures, all the glories indeed which will encircle His head throughout eternity - that all these were secured through His death. It is no wonder, therefore, that He has provided that His death should ever be remembered, that as often as His people eat the bread and drink the cup they show His death until He come.

But there is another thing to which the Lord calls our attention in this scripture. If it is true that He passed through death to secure all for God and for His people, we also must pass through death in order to enjoy what He has obtained. Hence the moment He had spoken of the necessity of the corn of wheat falling into the ground and dying if it would bring forth fruit, He proceeded to say, "He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal." Everyone will understand that if the characteristic blessings of Christianity are heavenly, or, to put it into even more simple language, that if heaven, the Father's house, is to be our eternal home, we must die to enter upon our full enjoyment, that it can only be after death, or after the Lord's coming, that we shall enter upon the possession of all the blessedness connected with our being for ever with the Lord. Another thing, however, is here taught, viz., that it is possible for the believer to pass through death now in spirit or morally, and thus to anticipate the life of heaven, by living there, in the power of the Spirit and through faith, while in this world. If the Lord's language be carefully examined, it will be seen that it bears this construction. He thus says, "He that loveth his life shall lose it," There are two senses in which the word "life" may be used - either to indicate existence, or that in which we live, that in which we find our life. This latter - the moral sense - is that conveyed in the Lord's words. They will mean, therefore, that if a man clings to his life here - to what makes up his life, to his enjoyments and gratifications - he will lose it, just as the prodigal found in the far country. On the other hand, he that hateth his life in this world - the one who, having found his attractions and treasure in Christ outside of this world, accepts death upon, surrenders, the pleasures and the enjoyments of the natural man - he will keep it unto life eternal, because he has already begun to live this life eternal, even while upon the earth.

This truth is so important that we may illustrate it from another scripture. In chapter 6 we read "Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." (v. 54.) Calling attention only to the first part of the verse, it may be remarked that the simple meaning of eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of man - without going further at this time - is the appropriation of His death, making it our own. Now if we thus accept, in the power of the Spirit, the death of Christ, and thus the judgment that fell upon Him as our judgment, it ends morally our responsible life before God, and we pass into a sphere which is outside of this world, where eternal life is known and enjoyed. All our true blessings indeed are in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, and it is abundantly clear that if we would enter upon their enjoyment we must pass into the region where they are found. What then - for this is the whole question - is the pathway into this region? It is death, the death of Christ appropriated by the believer, which he accepts as his righteous due, though Christ bore its judgment in his stead; and he thus finds that death frees him from the world, and is the way of life. This Gospel is full of this blessed truth, and hence we read also in chapter 5 that the believer has passed out of death into life.

Naturally, however, we shrink from death; and the Lord, knowing this as we could never know it, has, in His tender grace, supplied the power and the encouragement to tread this path of life. "If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also My servant be: if any man serve Me, him will My Father honour." First He holds Himself before our hearts as the One who has passed through death into His present place of exaltation and glory, and He invites us to follow Him. And to bring us under all the attractions of His grace and love, He pledges His sure and faithful word that where He is, there shall also His servant be. It was in verification of His promise that He said to the Father in chapter 17, "Father, I will that they also, whom Thou has given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world." With such a prospect, ineffable in its glory, with Himself as the Centre of it all, death is not only robbed of its terror (whether morally or actually considered), but it even becomes invested with a spiritual charm, because it is the means of introducing us into the place where He is who loved us and gave Himself for us, and where, as glorified with Him, we shall find our joy for ever.

There is yet more, for He adds, "If any man serve 'Me, him will My Father honour." Devotedness to the Son, proved at all cost by following Him through death into the place where He is, calls forth the joy of the Father's heart and the expression of His approbation. He will thus put honour upon he follower of His beloved Son, upon the affection that cannot rest anywhere except in the presence of its absorbing Object. What unutterable blessings thus lie beyond death, and beckon us onward to their enjoyment, seeking to allure us to anticipate our actual departure from this world by following our blessed Lord through death to the place where He dwells! May He so absorb our hearts with Himself that it may be impossible for us to rest in the scene where He is not, and that we may be constrained, while waiting for His return, to live constantly in His presence!

"That way is upward still
Where life and glory are;
Our rest's above, in perfect love,
The glory we shall share."