John 12:20-24 (NIV)
20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. 23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
After Jesus entered Jerusalem on what we commemorate as Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, some Greeks wanted to see Jesus. Greeks were generally considered to be civilized and educated people and they must have been curious to hear what Jesus had to say. Many of the great philosophers and thinkers were Greeks, so they were probably interested in Jesus’ “thoughts”, his perspective on life and truth.
But how did Jesus respond? He tells them a parable of a kernel of wheat that falls into the soil and grows to bear fruit, but he describes it in unusual terms. He says that the kernel dies. And it is through the kernel’s death that it bears fruit.
Evidently, Jesus interprets his own imminent suffering and death that would ultimately lead to resurrection and life – not only life for himself but life for all those who believe in him and receive eternal life through his sacrifice and death. Jesus uses this parable to explain a profound but paradoxical truth that cannot be explained in philosophical terms.
The Apostle Paul captures the clash of God’s wisdom with human wisdom in 1 Corinthians 1:18-24 (NIV):
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Through this parable, Jesus explained his own life-giving death, but he also shows us that this is the same path we should walk. We are called to take up our own cross daily and follow him, which means that our live should reflect humility, self-lowering and sacrifice – which the world considers foolish! But it is this sacrificial lifestyle of Christ-followers that is the true wisdom as it will lead others to find hope and ultimately eternal life in him who gave his life for us all: Jesus Christ!