Except a Corn Of Wheat
© 2022 C. O. Bishop
John 12:23-33; Philippians 2:5-8
23 And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.
24 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.
25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. 26 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.
27 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.
28 Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.
29 The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him.
30 Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.
31 Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.
32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. 33 This he said, signifying what death he should die.
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
We don’t usually associate the Christmas season with the Crucifixion. In fact, the first thought some of us may have had when Christmas came on Sunday, was “Will we still have Church?” This is what Church is about! It’s the reason we have Church at all! If we really consider Christmas to be Jesus’s Birthday, why would we not come together to celebrate His birth?
And, if we really believe that His reason in coming was to die in our place, and in so doing, to purchase eternal life as a gift for us. then how could we hesitate to give Him back the gift of honor and love and obedience that He deserves?
Connecting the Cross with Christmas
In John 12:23-33, there are several key phrases, any of which could be expanded upon to make the core message of a sermon. I do not want to do that, this morning. I want to tie together several key phrases, and connect them to a companion passage in Philippians.
When we consider the Christmas story, we remember the precious promises being fulfilled there, and we are overwhelmed by the mystery of God. Perhaps we are filled with Joy, knowing the fact of history that validates our faith.
But, as we are reading here, in John, it is easy to forget that the gory, horrible, shameful murder of that Holy Child, the King, is not only coming, but it is the purpose for which He came.
Let’s look again at some of the key statements.
In John 12:
- Except a corn (kernel) of wheat fall into the ground and die, it remains alone. (v. 24)
- If it dies, it produces much fruit. (v. 24)
- For this cause came I unto this hour. (v. 27)
- Now is the judgment of this world. (v. 31)
- Now shall the prince of this world be cast out. (v. 31)
What we just read was Jesus’s statement regarding His Birth and His Death! He said that He was born to die! He also said that His death had a specific purpose…and that purpose had several sub-clauses:
- He would bring forth fruit,
- the world is judged,
- the prince of this world is cast out.
What kind of Death?
He also gave a clue as to what kind of fruit He meant, and what kind of death He meant:
- And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me. (v. 32)
- This said He, signifying what death He should die. (v. 33)
He said that by means of the crucifixion He would “draw” all humans… The sins of the entire Human Race were judged at the Cross. He is the “magnet” drawing souls to God. We find the baby in the manger very touching, and the story of the miraculous birth thrilling. But the only means by which we can approach that Holy Child, that King, is through the Cross.
And in the midst of all that, He also let us know what we can do, if we are among those who have responded in faith. He says we are to follow Him. And He goes on to say, that those who are His servants will be where He is. He concludes that those who serve Him will be Honored by God the Father.
- If any man serve Me, let him follow Me. (v. 26)
- Where I am, there also shall my servant be. (v. 26)
- If any man serve Me, him will My Father honour. (v. 26)
How can We Respond to His Call?
When Jesus said that His servants would follow Him, what did He mean? He obviously knew that they would all be scattered before the Cross, as His own assignment was to walk through that particular trial alone.
He knew that all the disciples would eventually be martyred. He also knew which of his servants throughout history would suffer for His sake and to what degree. Obviously they have not all had the same experiences. But the call is extended down through the ages: “Follow Me!”
What does it mean, to “Follow Jesus?”
None of us have ever seen Jesus, let alone followed Him in any literal sense, but when we read 1st Corinthians 11:1, we see where the Apostle Paul (who had only seen Jesus in a vision, not in the flesh) told the Corinthian believers “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”
What was he telling them to do? He was telling them to live in obedience to Jesus. Throughout the New Testament we see admonitions to “walk worthy of the vocation where with ye are called.” (Perhaps you “don’t feel called!” Romans 8:28-30 should make you see that if you are a child of God, by Grace, through Faith, having been born again, then you are called! How you respond to that call is another matter.
Ultimately, it always comes down to a choice: Either I will, or I will not obey Jesus and daily seek to follow Him. Either I will, or I will not choose to feed on His Word, daily, and allow His Word to affect my thoughts, attitudes and actions. Either I will, or I will not look to Him for opportunities to serve Him in practical ways, serving as His hands and feet, and His voice, in this fallen World.
How Did Jesus Do It? Philippians 2:5-8
The Philippians passage we read made several statements about the choices Jesus made, in “emptying Himself” of His prerogatives as God the Son, and becoming a human child. He:
- Chose to set aside His prerogatives as Deity
- Chose a position of no reputation (a poor man in a poor family in a poor nation.)
- Chose to become a servant (Greek “doulos”…bondslave…a slave by choice.)
- Chose to become a human servant (not angelic)
- Chose to humble Himself
- Chose a lifestyle of absolute obedience to His Father
- Chose obedience through the Cross.
Can I do all of those? Obviously, the answer is “No, I cannot!” Of the seven choices Jesus made, only the last three are even open to me. I never was God, so there was nothing to let go of. I had no choice as to the place of my birth, let alone the family into which I was born.
But I can choose to honestly recognize that I am a human, not God! I can admit that I don’t know what is best, nor, often, even what is right. And I confess, that, on my own, when I do know what is right, I am liable to choose something else. I’m a sinner by nature. Apart from Jesus’s finished work at the Cross, I can’t even choose obedience. I can’t save myself.
What does the Cross have to do with Christmas?
In John 12:27, Jesus said, “For this cause am I come unto this hour.” In Luke 19:10 He said, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to Save that which was lost.” His whole purpose in coming is stated there. And the means by which it had to be done is stated in Philippians 2:5-8.
All of the prophecies had to be fulfilled in that one Person: in Jesus.: Taken together, the fulfilled prophecies established His credentials as the Redeemer. So, the place of His birth (Bethlehem) the family into which He would be born (lineage of David,) the sub-line through which He must not be born (Jeconias… also known as Jehoiachin, Jeconiah and Coniah—and Joseph was of that lineage!) So, the Virgin Birth was an absolute necessity, and all the other events surrounding His birth—all of them–had to be fulfilled to the letter.
Unwrapping the Gift of Christ
The reason we get emotional about the Birth of Jesus (and we should) is that it marks the beginning of the “unwrapping” of the greatest gift ever given. John 3:16 says it this way: “God so loved the World that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting Life.”
As individuals, we “begin to unwrap that gift” the moment we believe: when we place our trust in Jesus’s shed blood as full payment for our sins. But the “unwrapping” of the gift of Eternal Life takes all of the rest of our lives. One of the points at which we tend to “stick” is this idea of actually “following Jesus.” Please don’t allow that idea to cause you to stumble.
Saved to Serve
We don’t like the idea of slavery, even when we know our only Master will be the One who already owned us by Creation, and by Purchase, having bought us by His blood. He calls us to voluntarily submit ourselves to Him, through obedience to the Holy Spirit and His Written Word. And we still don’t like it. We are rebels by nature! So, it requires that we repent of our rebellion. It means that we change our minds about our stubborn desire for self-direction, self-determination, and self-will. That’s all repentance means: Change your mind!
Jesus came with a particular purpose in mind. And He carried out that Purpose. Ephesians 2:10 says that He saved us with a purpose in mind. (It says, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which He has before ordained that we should walk in them.”) Now He calls us to walk in that purpose, fulfilling it by Faith and Obedience.
How are we Called to Serve?
He says that He saved us to be His ambassadors and His witnesses. He says that we were saved to serve. We do not lose that position if we fail to live up to it…we just don’t get the rewards associated with obedience.
Jesus came as a precious baby, but not just so that we could “sigh” over how precious babies are (and they are) but rather so that we could see that God keeps His promises. Now He calls us to approach that Holy Child, the Eternal King, as our Savior and Master, and to offer ourselves as a worship gift, seeking to be the people He has called us to be.
Lord Jesus, glorify Yourself in us, Your servants. Help us to daily choose to function as your servants, not serving ourselves, but serving You in the work You have chosen for us.