Sermon on the Gospel according to John | The Life of a Seed | John 12:23-26

The Life of a Seed (John 12:23-26)

When I was growing up, my grandmother—Nannie—would often call our house at the end of the school day. And that message would be that all five of us were coming to her house for supper. Nannie was a fabulous cook—whether it was her meatloaf or her pinto beans or her pizza or something else. But the best meals Nannie ever fixed were straight from Papaw’s garden—fried green tomatoes or fried zucchini or fried corn or peas or killed lettuce.

You have to understand Papaw’s garden. About half of his backyard was plowed, and he grew everything imaginable and a lot of it. I can remember pulling up in their driveway and the entire carport being covered with tomatoes and watermelons and ears of corn and everything else. Every time you left their house you had big bags full of fresh produce.

But all that began with seeds. Papaw had someone plow his garden, and he would then go down to the local hardware store and buy his seeds. He would then carefully walk through the plowed rows and plant seeds that turned into an abundant—and I mean abundant—harvest.

Many of you have taken the time to plant row upon row of seeds for a good harvest. Others of you grew up on a farm, and you can remember planting season. Some others of you are thankful to have good neighbors who have a garden and share freely from their harvest. But it all begins with a seed.

Jesus spoke about raising a garden; no, not a garden of fresh vegetables, but a garden of eternal life. But to have such a harvest, the seed must die. Jesus had to die to bring forth an abundant harvest of eternal life, and you must die to bring forth an abundant harvest of eternal life. In fact, Jesus said, “Death brings harvest.

Scripture (John 12:23-26)

Remember when Jesus spoke these words. Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover after the Triumphal Entry. So, every word Jesus said in this morning’s text, he spoke mere days before he was betrayed and crucified, and you must read these words through that lens.

verse 23:

The hour had come “for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Before this statement, Jesus had said that his hour—the time of his crucifixion—was in the future; but the “hour” was now upon Jesus. He would die that very week.

verse 24:

Jesus began his teaching with “Truly, truly, I say to you.” Jesus always began his teaching that way when he wanted the disciples to pay close attention, for what he would soon say was very important.

A seed cannot bear fruit unless it falls into the ground and dies. A seed in the ground is consumed by the plant which buds from it; something else rises in its place, but the seed itself is gone.

The Lord spoke about his crucifixion here—unless he died, he could not bear much fruit. However, the Lord did die, and he has brought forth an abundant harvest: A harvest of eternal life for anyone who wishes.

verse 25:

If someone loves his life, he will lose it. The person who refuses to die to self but who lives for the pleasures for this life will lose his soul, his true life.

However, “whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” In other words, the one who regards his life as belonging to God and who lives for God in this world will inherit eternal life.

verse 26:

The one who wishes to serve Jesus must follow Jesus. Jesus was only days away from being betrayed and executed, so you must understand “follow” in that light. In other words, you must follow Jesus to death—you must, like Jesus, lay down everything in this world that you hold dear and die to yourself.

“Where I am, there will my servant be also.” Jesus would very soon be exalted to God’s right hand. Jesus would be in heaven; his servant would be with him there, too.

The Father will honor the one who serves Jesus; God will honor that soul with eternal life.


Death brings harvest.” Jesus said some rather unpleasant things about how “Death brings harvest.” He said: “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (Jn 12:25). Therefore, you need to ask yourself two questions:

One: Do I love my life?

Are you, in other words, so caught up in the here and now that you’ve lost sight of eternity?

  • Are you so caught up in earning a living and having extras you have no time to serve God?
  • Are you so caught up in who will win in November that you’ve lost sight that God’s kingdom is far more important than the American republic?
  • Are you so caught up in your hobbies that you have no time left to pray?
  • Are you so caught up in your family time that you have no God time?
  • Are you so caught up in the storyline of your favorite show that you don’t know the storyline of God’s redemption?

You simply cannot love your life. “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it” (Lk 17:33). “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul” (Mk 8:36-27). When Jesus sits on his throne to judge the world, not a thing of this world will matter. . . . Not your house, not your car, not your bank account, not how nice your yard looks, not who the President is, not how healthy you are. What’s going to matter is your soul. Do you love your life?

Two: Do I hate my life?

Are you, in other words, so caught up in eternity that the things of this world don’t matter?

  • Are you generous in your giving, even if it cuts into your pleasure?
  • Do you share the gospel with your friends, even if they desert you?
  • Do you assemble on the Lord’s Day, even if the weather is perfect?
  • Do you study Scripture, even if there’s another book you’re dying to read?
  • Do you spend time in prayer, even if it cuts down on your family time?

How much does eternity matter to you? You see, if you’re in Christ, your life isn’t yours anyhow: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price” (1 Cor 6:19-20). Paul wrote those words in a context of sexual immorality, but God’s ownership of your life runs throughout Scripture. Jesus said: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24). “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:24). The one who lives for Jesus lives “for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God” (1 Pet 4:2).

Can you honestly say this morning that you are living for the will of God? Have you died to self—like planting a seed—to bring forth a great harvest?

This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.

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