I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. John 12:24
For a kernel of wheat, reproduction is a total commitment! As Jesus made clear to His disciples, unless it dies, it remains as it is—a single seed. Ironically, when it dies, it becomes many.
Drive to multiply
We see the commitment to reproduction demonstrated throughout nature. Plants devote their energy to producing scores, hundreds, thousands of seeds in a bid to create a few or even one scion. Animals invest their strength, time, their very lives to producing, protecting, and launching a succeeding generation. This is powerfully and poetically portrayed in the documentary March of the Penguins . A ‘must see’ if you haven’t already.
God the multiplier
This drive of nature is much more than a practical necessity. It reflects the very nature of God. His first command to Adam and Eve, freshly made in His image, is that they ‘be fruitful and multiply’. Their fruitfulness was to reflect the Fruitful God, source of all life.
When God decided to hit the ‘restart’ button on His plan of salvation through the calling of Abram, multiplication was again His goal. He promised that Abram/Abraham would be the father of descendants as numerous as the stars.
There were a lot of Jews in the world when Jesus was born among them, but these were not the promised multitude. It was not those born of blood nor the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God, through Jesus, that were given the power to become children of God. (John 1:12-13 reordered) The Father is devoted to having children, many children, more numerous than the stars or sands of the sea shore.
How committed is the Father? ‘He did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all’ (Rom 8:32). How committed is the Son? He came … ‘to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mt 20:28).
Partners in reproduction
And this is where you and I come in! As those made in God’s image, filled with Christ’s Spirit, drawn to life in His Body, we are now to share in His sacrificial commitment to reproduction. Jesus’ instruction to his disciples was to ‘go make disciples of all nations’ (Mt 28:18). Jesus makes it very clear that this is the top priority. He says that this is how the ‘… Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples’ (Jn 15:8).
Frankly, hearing this I start to get uncomfortable. All nature points to the costly commitment to reproduction (ask any Mom about that!). God speaks of and then acts with total commitment to multiply His family. And then He invites me to join Him sacrificially in the process of reproducing disciples. But I’m not that committed to it! Sure, I would like to see more people become children of God. But am I really willing to be the kernel of wheat falling into the ground and dying for it?
A preference for leaves
There are other things which tug at me. Renewal, cooperation among Christians, growing in character, worship, maybe wisdom, good things all — and, of course if I am honest, pleasing myself!
Is this not maybe true of much of the Christian church, and even us here in The Word of God? The costly investment in disciple making is for individuals and ministries what a special call, not so much for ordinary Christians like us. But are we really reflecting the driving passion of the Father’s heart in this, He ‘who so loved the world that He gave his only Son’ (Jn 3:16)?
The Father fully understands our situation. He knows that we prefer growing branches and leaves to making the tremendous investment in fruit. He is the Vinedresser who lovingly prunes us that we may bear fruit. I see this not as a threat for low performance, but as a promise to conform us to the image and priorities of the Son, empowering us to do what He does — bear fruit/make disciples.
What fruitfulness would be unleashed if you and I and the whole church, were to make the same costly investment in bringing forth the next generation that we see all around us in nature, and supremely in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?