John the Gospel writer annoys me and the more I read him the more he does. He always has to explain the very thing he just wrote as if those reading it are too thick to get his meaning. And when I am feeling like this I get to thinking he may be right.
We are too thick to get what he is writing.
The Fathers of the church and scholars through the ages have taken much of what has been written and interpreted it in such a way that the life of Jesus is seen primarily as God’s response to original sin. Apparently we are all inherently bad and need a sacrificial lamb without spot to cast our sins upon for redemption.
“Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit”
This is how this verse is often interpreted. Jesus dies so we can live. But we add bits that aren’t there. We add sin and the need for an angry God to be propitiated for our humanity. We add the ghastly event of Good Friday to this, not as a testimony to the commitment of Jesus as the fully conscious human being who stays with the demands of the Kingdom of God right until the end, but as a bloody sacrifice for sin.
John, perhaps, captures the natural process of evolution and reminds us that when something individual dies it is reborn somewhere within the species, it leaves behind something to empower, embolden and to add to others. This is the process God chose for creation and it is the process John refers to here.
Jesus is just like the significantly insignificant grain of wheat, on its own it contains the essence of daily living, but when it dies it gives birth to much more than it could ever achieve individually. The death of Jesus, as the fully alive sentient being, the culmination of all evolutionary creation to this point is the catalyst for change, for another way of being in the world and for wholeness.
This is what is born in the idea of much fruit. Jesus is not specific about what the fruit looks like – is it spiritual, is it social justice, is it found in mystics, activists, lay people or monks, is it found in one strain of religious thought and practice, is it confined to one particular set of dogma, orthodoxy or practice over against another? Jesus simply says it will bear much fruit and just like the grain of wheat cannot give fruit from a pineapple, the essence of the one who dies will be the signifying essence of the fruit. In other words it will be found in the form of other fully alive sentient beings who live for wholeness, justice and respect at the gentle and not so gentle prodding of eternal love.
Like gives birth to like . Not like in particular but like in essence and Jesus is bearing fruit throughout this world in all lives in tune with urge for wholeness embedded within all creation by the Source of all love.