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John 12:24

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die - Our Lord compares himself to a grain of wheat; his death, to a grain sown and decomposed in the ground; his resurrection, to the blade which springs up from the dead grain; which grain, thus dying, brings forth an abundance of fruit. I must die to be glorified; and, unless I am glorified, I can not establish a glorious Church of Jews and Gentiles upon earth. In comparing himself thus to a grain of wheat, our Lord shows us: -

  1. The cause of his death - the order of God, who had rated the redemption of the world at this price; as in nature he had attached the multiplication of the corn to the death or decomposition of the grain.
  • The end of his death - the redemption of a lost world; the justification, sanctification, and glorification of men: as the multiplication of the corn is the end for which the grain is sown and dies.
  • The mystery of his death, which we must credit without being able fully to comprehend, as we believe the dead grain multiplies itself, and we are nourished by that multiplication, without being able to comprehend how it is done.
  • The greatest philosopher that ever existed could not tell how one grain became thirty, sixty, a hundred, or a thousand - how it vegetated in the earth - how earth, air, and water, its component parts, could assume such a form and consistence, emit such odours, or produce such tastes. Nor can the wisest man on earth tell how the bodies of animals are nourished by this produce of the ground; how wheat, for instance, is assimilated to the very nature of the bodies that receive it, and how it becomes flesh and blood, nerves, sinews, bones, etc. All we can say is, the thing is so; and it has pleased God that is should be so, and not otherwise. So there are many things in the person, death, and sacrifice of Christ, which we can neither explain nor comprehend. All we should say here is, It is by this means that the world was redeemed - through this sacrifice men are saved: it has pleased God that it should be so, and not otherwise. Some say: "Our Lord spoke this according to the philosophy of those days, which was by no means correct." But, I would ask, has ever a more correct philosophy on this point appeared? Is it not a physical truth that the whole body of the grain dies, is converted into fine earth, which forms the first nourishment of the embryo plant, and prepares it to receive a grosser support from the surrounding soil; and that nothing lives but the germ, which was included in this body, and which must die also, if it did not receive, from the death or putrefaction of the body of the grain, nourishment, so as to enable it to unfold itself? Though the body of our Lord died, there was still the germ, the quickening power of the Divinity, which re-animated that body, and stamped the atonement with infinite merit. Thus the merit was multiplied; and, through the death of that one person, the man Christ Jesus united to the eternal Word, salvation was procured for the whole world. Never was a simile more appropriate, nor an illustration more happy or successful.

    Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible

    Verily, verily - An expression denoting the great importance of what he was about to say. We cannot but admire the wisdom by which he introduces the subject of his death. They had seen his triumph. They supposed that he was about to establish his kingdom. He told them that the time had come in which he was to be glorified, but not in the manner in which they expected. It was to be by his death. But as they would not at once see how this could be, as it would appear to dash their hopes, he takes occasion to illustrate it by a beautiful comparison. All the beauty and richness of the harvest results from the fact that the grain had died. If it had not died it would never have germinated or produced the glory of the yellow harvest. So with him. By this he still keeps before them the truth that he was to be glorified, but he delicately and beautifully introduces the idea still that he must die.

    A corn - A grain.

    Of wheat - Any kind of grain - wheat, barley; etc. The word includes all grain of this kind.

    Into the ground - Be buried in the earth, so as to be accessible by the proper moisture.

    And die - The whole body or substance of the grain, except the germ, dies in the earth or is decomposed, and this decomposed substance constitutes the first nourishment of the tender germ a nutriment wonderfully adapted to it, and fitted to nourish it until it becomes vigorous enough to derive its support entirely from the ground. In this God has shown his wisdom and goodness. No one thing could be more evidently fitted for another than this provision made in the grain itself for the future wants of the tender germ.

    Abideth alone - Produces no fruit. It remains without producing the rich and beautiful harvest. So Jesus intimates that it was only by his death that he would be glorified in the salvation of men, and in the honors and rewards of heaven, Hebrews 2:9; “We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor.” Philemon 2:8-9; “he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; wherefore God also hath highly exalted him,” etc. Hebrews 12:2; “who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” See also Ephesians 1:20-23.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    In attendance upon holy ordinances, particularly the gospel passover, the great desire of our souls should be to see Jesus; to see him as ours, to keep up communion with him, and derive grace from him. The calling of the Gentiles magnified the Redeemer. A corn of wheat yields no increase unless it is cast into the ground. Thus Christ might have possessed his heavenly glory alone, without becoming man. Or, after he had taken man's nature, he might have entered heaven alone, by his own perfect righteousness, without suffering or death; but then no sinner of the human race could have been saved. The salvation of souls hitherto, and henceforward to the end of time, is owing to the dying of this Corn of wheat. Let us search whether Christ be in us the hope of glory; let us beg him to make us indifferent to the trifling concerns of this life, that we may serve the Lord Jesus with a willing mind, and follow his holy example.
    Ellen G. White
    Christ's Object Lessons, 86

    And more than this is wrapped up in the sowing and the reaping. As we distribute God's temporal blessings, the evidence of our love and sympathy awakens in the receiver gratitude and thanksgiving to God. The soil of the heart is prepared to receive the seeds of spiritual truth. And He who ministers seed to the sower will cause the seed to germinate and bear fruit unto eternal life. COL 86.1

    *****

    By the casting of the grain into the soil, Christ represents the sacrifice of Himself for our redemption. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die,” He says, “it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” John 12:24. So the death of Christ will result in fruit for the kingdom of God. In accordance with the law of the vegetable kingdom, life will be the result of His death. COL 86.2

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    Ellen G. White
    The Desire of Ages, 622-3

    The Greeks had heard of Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Some supposed, and had circulated the report, that He had driven the priests and rulers from the temple, and that He was to take possession of David's throne, and reign as king of Israel. The Greeks longed to know the truth in regard to His mission. “We would see Jesus,” they said. Their desire was granted. When the request was brought to Jesus, He was in that part of the temple from which all except Jews were excluded, but He went out to the Greeks in the outer court, and had a personal interview with them. DA 622.1

    The hour of Christ's glorification had come. He was standing in the shadow of the cross, and the inquiry of the Greeks showed Him that the sacrifice He was about to make would bring many sons and daughters to God. He knew that the Greeks would soon see Him in a position they did not then dream of. They would see Him placed beside Barabbas, a robber and murderer, who would be chosen for release before the Son of God. They would hear the people, inspired by the priests and rulers, making their choice. And to the question, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” the answer would be given, “Let Him be crucified.” Matthew 27:22. By making this propitiation for the sins of men, Christ knew that His kingdom would be perfected, and would extend throughout the world. He would work as the Restorer, and His Spirit would prevail. For a moment He looked into futurity, and heard the voices proclaiming in all parts of the earth, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29. In these strangers He saw the pledge of a great harvest, when the partition wall between Jew and Gentile should be broken down, and all nations, tongues, and peoples should hear the message of salvation. The anticipation of this, the consummation of His hopes, is expressed in the words, “The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.” But the way in which this glorification must take place was never absent from Christ's mind. The gathering in of the Gentiles was to follow His approaching death. Only by His death could the world be saved. Like a grain of wheat, the Son of man must be cast into the ground and die, and be buried out of sight; but He was to live again. DA 622.2

    Christ presented His future, illustrating it by the things of nature, that the disciples might understand. The true result of His mission was to be reached by His death. “Verily, verily, I say unto you,” He said, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” When the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it springs up, and bears fruit. So the death of Christ would result in fruit for the kingdom of God. In accordance with the law of the vegetable kingdom, life was to be the result of His death. DA 623.1

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    Ellen G. White
    Education, 110

    More than this: as we impart the blessings of this life, gratitude in the recipient prepares the heart to receive spiritual truth, and a harvest is produced unto life everlasting. Ed 110.1

    By the casting of grain into the earth, the Saviour represents His sacrifice for us. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die,” He says, “it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” John 12:24. Only through the sacrifice of Christ, the Seed, could fruit be brought forth for the kingdom of God. In accordance with the law of the vegetable kingdom, life is the result of His death. Ed 110.2

    So with all who bring forth fruit as workers together with Christ: self-love, self-interest, must perish; the life must be cast into the furrow of the world's need. But the law of self-sacrifice is the law of self-preservation. The husbandman preserves his grain by casting it away. So the life that will be preserved is the life that is freely given in service to God and man. Ed 110.3

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    Ellen G. White
    The Upward Look, 110

    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. John 12:24. UL 110.1

    In this age we can see the necessity of drawing men to Christ. This draws them to one another in that confidence, that love, that unity, for which Christ prayed in His last prayer with and for His disciples. This unity was essential for their spiritual growth. This world is a battlefield, upon which the powers of good and evil are in ceaseless warfare. UL 110.2

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