The Lesson of the Seed

If you want to really live, you have to really die.

Consider the infinite, multiple power of the seed – how many grasses, fruits, and animals are contained in each kind of seed; and how there surges forth from each a beautiful, innumerable multiplicity of forms.

  - Eriugena, Homily on John 1.1-14, Irish, 9th century[1]

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

What a strange paradox, that, in a certain sense, a seed must first die in order to live.

The same is true for every follower of Christ. If you would live for Christ, you must die to self and the world. Dying daily is just the normal way to a full, abundant, and fruitful life in the Kingdom of God.

A seed cast into the soil “dies” by shedding its hard outer shell, which breaks down under the pressure of its new environment. As the old breaks down and gives way, the seed’s inner essence is exposed to the life-giving environment, which stirs the slumbering “multiple power of the seed.”

Warm moisture, carrying with it the nutrients of the soil, enters by osmosis and quickens the root, driving it downward into the life-giving environment of the soil. The unseen root, thus grounded, awakens the stem, sending the leaf toward the surface in search of light, essential for energizing the root.

Thus alive, the seed knows instinctively what it must do in order to thrive and bear fruit. That which we see – the leaf – strains toward the light, so that it might receive the energy to animate the unseen root, which, in turn, sends nourishment to the leaf.

The more we “consider the infinite, multiple power of the seed” the better we will understand the process of growing in the Lord. For we, too, in order to live, must shed the dead shell of this world that encrusts our souls, and open our hearts, minds, and consciences to the warmth of God’s Word and the living water of His Spirit.

As Christ carries out His quickening work in the unseen parts of our soul, instinctively we will drive our roots down deeper into the good soil of God’s Word, hungry to feed, drawing in spiritual nutrients to strengthen the soul, so that it may nourish the visible aspects of our lives – all our senses and bodily members.

The more firmly and surely we root in the soil of God’s Word, the more we will aspire in all our senses and members to achieve the light of Jesus’ face, seeking the glory that resides there to strengthen and renew us each day (2 Cor. 4.6). The false lights of the world will hold no allure; we will want to bask in the true light and have it refract through us in every aspect of our lives.

Then and only then will we bear the promised fruit of our new lives in Christ – as we are nourished on the Word and shaped by the Light of Jesus’ face. Neglect either of these – continuing in the Word and seeking the face of the Lord – and growth will be stunted, incomplete, and without much fruit.

But dwell in the Word, and have it dwell in you, and contemplate the face of Jesus daily, and soon enough the unique life which God has created in each of us will begin to blossom unto Christlikeness –  righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit – in all our words and deeds.

The prospect of bearing such fruit should make us eager to shed every encrustation of the world and settle more firmly into that fruitful pattern of growth for which we have been redeemed.

Or to put it another way, if we are dying to live, we will live, and never die.

For Reflection
1.  How would you explain the idea of “dying to live” to a new believer?

2. How can you maintain this “dying to live” approach to following Jesus?

Psalm 63.1-9 (Nun Danken: Now Thank We All Our God)
O God, You are my God, and earnestly I seek You!
My soul thirsts and my flesh in weariness now greets You!
Thus I would see Your face, with glory and pow’r arrayed,
in this Your holy place – Your beauty here displayed. 

Your steadfast love, O Lord, than life is better to me;
so I will praise Your Name, and bless You, Lord, most truly.
My soul is richly blest; to You my hands I raise,
and open now my mouth to offer joyful praise.

By night, Lord, fill my mind with pleasant meditation;
for You have been my help as ‘neath Your wings I station.
My soul clings, Lord, to You; I rest in Your Right Hand;
may all who seek my life in Your displeasure stand.

Lord, grow me! Help me spend more time in Your Word! Teach me to gaze on the face of Jesus! Grow me today so that I…

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T. M. Moore
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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


[1] Bamford, p. 87.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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