Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. (John 12:24)
The cross is the most powerful illustration of God’s principle of sowing and reaping that we could find. It’s a powerful symbol of the principle of harvest working in God’s affairs as well as man’s. So often, we read verses that tell us that ‘His ways are so much higher than ours’ and immediately assume that He operates outside of so many of the spiritual laws and principles in place to govern and order creation. What we forget, however, is that every single thing in this creation is a manifestation of His will. His creation manifests His nature and character when we look beyond the perversion and wickedness of man who seeks to corrupt it all for self-gratification. God exists and works within the parameters of His own spiritual principles because they are part of who He is. They are simply extensions and manifestations of His will. Resurrecton and harvest go hand in hand.
The cross is the celebration of resurrection and harvest, of reaping what has been sowed.
When we read today’s verse, it’s imperative that we do so with full cogniscance of the cross before us, just as it was for Jesus. His suffering and death was not some vague esoteric possibility. Though still in the future, it was never subject to chance or circumstance, but was a fact already established and unchangeable at the very foundation of the world. This is the vital poignancy that infuses the truth of death and resurrection and harvest princples of sowing and reaping. Even for God, the end result – the harvest He desired – was what determined the seed He would have to sow.
This perspective adds new relevance to those verses which refer to Jesus as the ‘first born of many,’ or ‘Abraham’s seed,’ or ‘David’s seed.’ A seed is something which contains within itself the potential to grow produce a harvest, i.e. a multiplication beyond itself and of itself. A seed is specifically created by God to bring forth many seeds just like it. That is the principle behind the cross, the resurrection and harvest. Jesus came as the Son of Man (the seed of Abraham) to be ‘planted’ through death, so He could be resurrected (grown) to produce other seeds (a harvest) who would continue the ageless cycle of sowing and reaping already in place in creation. We should never be surprised when God uses ‘physical’ realities in His own plans.
To celebrate only the death of Jesus on the cross is half a party. The cross must always be celebrated for all it’s glorious truth of both death and resurrection. Without resurrection, Christ’s sacrifice has no meaning. The powerful truths that are part of our foundational faith exist in victory, overcoming, triumphing, defeating the enemy – all things that are critical to the abundant life and which Jesus obtained not through His death but through His resurrection. His death put Him in the place where He could be resurrected – until He died, resurrection had no relevance. A seed is planted to come to the place where it can be caused to grow. Until it is planted, germination is a theoretical concept, not a reality. Death, resurrection and harvest are principles which cannot exist in their practical and spiritual reality unless they exist together.
A seed unplanted remains just that – a single seed. It remains forever alone, trapped in its outer protection. The potential for life remains, but the actuality of life is absent. To fulfill its purpose in God – to bring harvest – the seed must die. If it doesn’t it is simply a promise not a fulfillment of promise. This is the principle of the cross. At the cross, God essentially fulfilled every single promise given to mankind in the person of Christ, and He revealed the ‘how of it’ in clear illustration using the principle of sowing and reaping that governs every single thought, word, or action of our lives. Resurrection and harvest are the abundance principle of new life in Christ – a new life purchased at such incredible cost, and which can only be accessed through death with Jesus.
We are always encouraged with expressions like ‘new life in Christ,’ ‘new creation,’ and ‘new man,’ but we easily lose sight of the fact that God essentially creates from nothing. Like the artist who creates dramatic and powerful pieces from the junk of others, God uses the ‘junk’ of humanity to recreate His ‘in Christ’ masterpieces. We take verses like ‘God so loved the world’ and forget that, in essence, that outside of Jesus and God’s saving grace, we are nothing – nothing but the potential God sees for each of us. God’s fundamental purpose behind the cross is that we be multiplied – not the conventional multiplication blessings of properity and wealth, but the multiplication of the character and nature of Christ.
The world is full of teachings on achieving our full potential, of being who we really are and what we are intended to be. They all sound good, like something worth aspiring to. Some come from secular or new age philosophies, and some are even heard in the church. I am the first one to agree that we should live the live and potential that God intended for us. I believe absolutely and completely that each of us has a purpose and a destiny, and we should strive for this in all we do. But we must never lose sight of the fact that this ‘destiny’ is in Christ. Outside of Christ, we remain nothing, simply raw materials. The purpose of the cross is to bring forth a harvest that replicates the original seed, i.e. Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Resurrection and harvest work together to make that possible.
Pride, of course, and self do not want to be simply ‘clones of Christ.’ We defend our individuality fiercely – after all, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Yes, we are, we are made in the image of God. Jesus is the blueprint for every child of God. Worldly perceptions and attitudes struggle with this sense of ‘uniformity.’ We don’t like the possibility of all being the same. We don’t want to be simply replicas, mirror images of the same thing, with no variety and no opportunity for us to stand out from the crowd or make our own mark. Perhaps this is the reason why so many times, being ‘planted’ through having to lay down something in our lives at the cross is so difficult. We’re ‘losing a part of us,’ a something that helps to define us as different and individual. but resurrection and harvest are enablers of difference rather than destroyers of difference. Being a replication of Christ does not deny or remove the essential individuality of each of us.
To understand this, we must understand the principle of the body of Christ. No part of the body is the same as another. Each is readily identifiable as what they are and what purpose they have. They are different, individual, and have specific abilities directly related to their purpose. Yet, together, we all make up the body of Christ – His body on earth – the replication that God is after. In other words, if every single believer from every single moment in time were gathered together, His body would be present and perfect. That is the replication. Jesus doesn’t desire clones. He desires the members of His body to manifest Himself in the specific characteristics and purposes they have been given. Resurrection and harvest – life and purpose – work together to empower this in each of us.
The cross, in simple terms, speaks of both death and life. It speaks of resurrection and harvest. And it speaks to the universal purpose of God behind the principles of sowing and reaping. We need to take hold of the truth that the principle of harvest is one that governs every single aspect of creation, irrespective of its size or ability. The tiniest micro-organisms, invisible to the naked eye, have the potential of reproduction. Plants have it, animals have it, and man has it. Every single thing is created with the fundamental purpose to ‘go forth and multiply.’ But the principle of harvest, of sowing and reaping, adds a vital dimension – that of provision.
Resurrection and harvest are both the fulfillment of the promises of God inherent in the principle of multiplication. These promises include survival of a species, safety in numbers, support and encouragement from loved ones, families, relationships, security, and provision for all our needs. The principle of sowing and reaping is intended to ensure that we have sufficient in all things for all needs. If we reap a ‘wrong’ harvest, that is due to our own wrong seed and not a failure on God’s part. His promises remain fulfilled, whatever we reap. The problem lies with the seed.
In God’s hands, we are the seed that will feed the world. We are the harvest of Christ – God reaps what He sowed in Jesus – and part of our purpose is to live like Jesus who was the bread of life. That’s our purpose. It may manifest in other ways – we may be evangelists, caregivers, teachers, leaders, parents, apostles, or simply cleaners, but the purpose of our life remains to feed the world with the bread of life. We can only achieve that if we first die – are planted with Christ at the cross – and resurrected in Him. The cross is resurrection and harvest together. Abundant life in Christ is only possible if we are willing to first accept that we are nothing, and willingly be buried, and willingly be raised not into who or what we think we should be but into whatever part of the body of Christ He intends us to be. This is the real victory of the cross – that we no longer see self, but only the risen, resurrected, triumphant, victorious, conquering King.
Help us, Lord, to humble ourselves at the cross, to joy in the full message of resurrection and harvest, and to surrender all. Help us to yield to Your planting according to Your purposes, so that we may be a harvest to feed the world, bringing the bread of life in our lives so that only Jesus will be seen.