The seed is one of the most extraordinary things God created. It teaches us the ways of the Lord and his Kingdom. The life of the seed cannot be unleashed unless it goes into hiding. Once it is hidden in the darkness of the earth it breaks open and dies. The seed has all the potential of life, but without being broken it remains unable to reproduce. So it is with each one of us. The very thing that we resist the most––brokenness––is the very thing that reproduces life.
In the Parable of the Sower Jesus proclaims: “The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11). At salvation we receive that seed into our hearts and it produces new life. But not only do we need to receive God’s Word as a seed, we ourselves need to become a seed! This happens when we hear the call to discipleship and when we realize that the purpose of salvation is to follow Christ. Salvation liberates us to follow, to be his disciple. Without salvation it is impossible to follow Christ no matter how hard we try. Salvation has a greater purpose than giving us a ticket to heaven: the reason we come to Jesus is so that we become yoked to him as a learner and co-worker (Matt. 11:28-30). And Jesus is the one who said, “If any man come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Clearly there is a cost to discipleship, and it is the cost of becoming a seed like Christ.
In the early days of our ministry we went through some excruciating trials—bitter opposition, little finances, betrayal, long seasons of barrenness, rejection, exhaustion and a host of other hardship. During those times I said to a friend, “I feel like dirt!” How did he respond? “Good! That’s God’s way. God must be in this thing.” Then I remembered Jesus’ words, “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, NKJV). I realized that I was like that grain of wheat—I was in the dirt and dying. It’s painful, but it’s the only way to fruitfulness.
This is why baptism is so crucial. Baptism is submitting to becoming like a seed. The one being baptized falls into the darkness and hiddenness of the water. For a few moments we lose our sight of them. What is critical is that they have not dunked themselves, instead this is something God initiated and it takes place in community. The community witnesses their submission to God through the church. The community also witnesses their disappearance. But that is not the final thing! They also see their resurrection—their sprouting and bearing of fruit. In a few moments the community beholds, and the baptized one experiences, what will take a whole lifetime to unfold: the baptized one comes out of the water. This outward act will now mark the daily inward experience of this new child of God.
It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who first said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him to come and die.” He goes on to say, “It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call…In fact every command of Jesus is a call to die, with all our affections and lusts.”
Prayer: Father, may we become like that seed that falls to the ground and dies. Let us realize that this is the cost of discipleship. But there is more to the story: there is the springing up of new life. May we also bear the fruit of being your disciples, in Jesus name.