Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Seeds don't actually die. Jesus used this metaphor in the Scriptures to give illustration of our need to "lose our life in order to save it", but one of my friends in my community group last night said she always gets frustrated with the metaphor since she studied Biology in college. It's ok, I don't think Jesus was lying or anything, he probably just didn't take Biology. But the metaphor still kinda works- even with the correction. When He tells us to die, He's not literally asking us to kill ourselves. He's telling us to put to death the rotten self in order that the true self might shine through. You know, the self that Adam and Eve had before they screwed things up, the one we'll get back when we finally see Jesus, the one that God is creating in us if we let Him. There is always life hiding underneath, even if it's very small, even if you can't see it. When the seed falls into the ground, it sure looks dead, but the new life and eventually fruit will spring forth.
Here's another observation from this verse, one that has come into sharper focus since I've started gardening:
Plants don't always produce fruit. They have seasons of fruit-bearing, but it's not constant. In fact the plant is always running through the cycle of "death" and life and re-birth. Matthew 7:16 says "You will know them by their fruit..." Them being us, the believers. Are you ever discouraged or scared when you realize you might not be bearing fruit? I know this verse used to freak me out. I would go through a time of frustration, of silence from God, and on top of that I would realize nothing good was coming out of my life. I knew I must not be a Christian! "The Bible says we'll know them by their fruit and I have none, so that must mean I'm a failure." But it was usually just a season of "death". To keep with the garden metaphor, God was pruning my leaves and branches, cutting out the things that were hindering me from loving Him better. And eventually life sprouted up again.
Death is a part of this life. We are called to die not just once at a church youth group altar call, but to do it again and again. You may not have fruit on you ALL the time, but if you are in Him, you can rest assured that you WILL bear fruit.