John 12:24
Truly, truly, I say to you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it stays alone: but if it die, it brings forth much fruit.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(24) Verily, verily, I say unto you.—He is passing to the deeper truth which underlies His words, and calls attention to what He is about to say by the usual and solemn “Verily, verily.” (Comp. Note on John 1:51.)

Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die.—The truth is one of those of the spirit-world, lying beyond the ordinary language of men. He prepares them for it by what we call the analogy of a physical law, but what is really an instance of the working of the great law of life, which God has given to the moral and physical worlds alike. All knew that a grain of wheat, though containing in itself the germs of life, would remain alone, and not really live unless it fell to the earth. Then the life-germs would burst forth, and the single grain, in its own death, would give life to blade, and stalk, and ear of corn. Its death then was the true life, for it released the inner life-power which the husk before held captive; and this life-power multiplying itself in successive grains would clothe the whole field with a harvest of much fruit.

This law Christ now teaches to be a law also of the moral world, and one to which His own life is subject. Here too life issues from death. The moral power which is the life of the world finds its source in the death of the Son of man. “He is life.” “In Him is life.” “He quickens whom He will.” “Whosoever believeth in Him hath eternal life.” These truths this Gospel has told us again and again: but Christ now tells that while He is still on earth this life exists, but in its germs; and that in His death it will burst forth, and grow up, and multiply itself in the great spiritual harvest of the world. Such was the prophecy. The history of all that is best, and truest, and noblest in the life of eighteen centuries comes to us as the fulfilment. Hearts hardened, sinful, dead, that have been led to think of His death, and in thoughts of it have felt germs of life springing up and bursting the husks of their former prison, and growing up into living powers which have changed their whole being; this is the individual fulfilment that has come to many and may come to all.

12:20-26 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.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." Philippians 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.

24. Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit—The necessity of His death is here brightly expressed, and its proper operation and fruit—life springing forth out of death—imaged forth by a beautiful and deeply significant law of the vegetable kingdom. For a double reason, no doubt, this was uttered—to explain what he had said of His death, as the hour of His own glorification, and to sustain His own Spirit under the agitation which was mysteriously coming over it in the view of that death. Look as you see in your ordinary husbandry, the grains of wheat are first buried in the earth, and lose their form, before they spring and shoot up again, and bring forth fruit; so it must be with me; I must be first lifted up, before I shall draw men after me; I must first be crucified, before my gospel shall be preached to all nations, and the fulness of the Gentiles shall come: but if I have once died, and risen again from the dead, then you shall see this abundant fruit. Verily, verily, I say unto you,.... This is a certain truth in nature, Christ was about to assert; and what he signifies by it would be a certain fact, and which he mentions, that his death might not be a stumbling block to his disciples, or any objection to his glorification; but was rather to be considered as a means of it, and necessary in order to it:

except a corn of wheat fall into the ground; or is sown in the earth; for sowing with the Jews is expressed by the falling of the seed into the earth; See Gill on Matthew 13:4; and is a very fit phrase to set forth the death of Christ by, who fell a sacrifice to justice by the hands of men:

and die; or is corrupted, and putrefies; and which is done in three days time in moist land, but is longer in dry ground ere it perishes (z): and a corn of wheat is almost the only seed, that being cast into the earth, does die; and therefore is very aptly used by Christ:

it abideth alone; a mere single corn as it is:

but if it die; if it wastes, consumes, and rots, as it does, being cast into the earth, in the time before mentioned:

it bringeth forth much fruit; it shoots out, and rises above ground, and appears in blade, and stalk, and ear, and produces many corns or grains of wheat; all which our Lord intends should be accommodated to himself, and to his death, and the fruits of it. He compares himself to a corn of wheat; to wheat, for the choiceness and excellency of it above all other grain, he being the chiefest among ten thousand, angels or men; and for the purity and cleanness of it, he being, even in his human nature, pure, and free from sin; and for its fruitfulness, he being fruitful in himself, and the cause of all fruitfulness in his people; and for its usefulness for food, he being the bread of life, and the finest of the wheat: and whereas the wheat must be threshed, and ground, and sifted, and kneaded, and baked, before it is fit for food; all this may express the sufferings and death of Christ, in order to be proper food for the faith of his people: and Christ here compares himself to a single corn of wheat, because he was of little account among men, and but little or nothing was expected by them from him; and chiefly because he was alone in the salvation of his people. The death of Christ is signified by the falling of the corn of wheat into the ground, and dying, and shows that Christ's death was not accidental, but designed; it was determined in the counsels and purposes of God, and intended for his glory and the redemption of men; even as wheat falls out of the hands of the sower, not casually, but on purpose, that it may die and spring up again, and produce an increase: and also, that the death of Christ was voluntary, both on his Father's part, and on his own; and was real, and not in appearance only, and yet was but for a short time; as the corn of wheat that dies, soon revives again, and is quickly above ground, so Christ, though he really died, did not long continue under the power of death, but rose again the third day, and now lives for ever. Moreover, Christ intimates by this simile, that if he had not died, he should have been alone; not without his Father, and the blessed Spirit; nor without the holy and elect angels, but without any of the sons of men, who all fell and died in Adam; and had not Christ died, none of them would have lived; none of them could have been justified; nor could their sins have been expiated; nor would any of them have been regenerated: Christ must have been without them in heaven; wherefore he chose rather to die for them, that they might be for ever with him, than be alone in the human nature. And he further observes hereby, that his death would be productive of much fruit; which may be understood both of a large harvest of souls, that should be saved, among Jews, and Gentiles, and especially the latter; and of the blessings of grace, as redemption, justification, peace, pardon, and eternal life, that should follow upon it.

(z) Rabbenu Samson & Bartenora in Misn. Celaim, c. 2. sect. 3.

{5} Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and {b} die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

(5) The death of Christ is as it were a sowing, which seems to be a dying of the corn, but indeed is the cause of a much greater harvest: and such as is the condition of the head, so will be the condition of the members.

(b) A wheat corn dies when it is changed in the ground, and becomes the root of a fruitful new plant.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 12:24. My death, however, is necessary to the successful and victorious development of my work, as the wheat-corn must fall into the earth and die, in order to bring forth much fruit. The solemn assurance (ἀμὴν, ἀμὴν, κ.τ.λ.) is in keeping with the difficulty of getting the disciples to accept the idea of His death.

ἀποθάνῃ] For the vital principle in the corn, the germ, forces itself out; thus the corn is dead, and become a prey to dissolution, comp. 1 Corinthians 15:36αὐτὸς μόνος] by itself alone, John 6:15. Ast, Lex. Plat. I. p. 314. The life of the corn which has not fallen into the earth remains limited and bound to itself, without the possibility of a communication and unfolding of life outwards issuing from it, such as only follows in the case of that corn which dies in the earth through the bursting forth of the living germ, and in this way of death produces much fruit. Thus, also, with Christ; it is through His death that there first comes upon all peoples and times the rich blessing which is destined for the world. Comp. John 12:32.John 12:24. But second to the thought of His enthronement as Messiah comes the thought of the way to it: ἀμὴνφέρει, “except the grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides itself alone; but if it die, it bears much fruit”. The seed reaches its full and proper development by being sown in the ground and dying. It is this process, apparently destructive, and which calls for faith in the sower, which disengages the forces of the seed and allows it to multiply itself. To preserve the seed from this burial in the ground is to prevent it from attaining its best development and use. The law of the seed is the law of human life.24. Verily, verily] Strange as it may seem to you that the Messiah should die, yet this is but the course of nature: a seed cannot be glorified unless it dies. A higher form of existence is obtained only through the extinction of the lower form that preceded it. See on John 1:51.John 12:24. Πεσών) when it hath fallen.—αὐτὸς μόνος, by itself alone) Christ, even though He had not died for us, yet could have been by [in] Himself the same that He now is.—ἀποθάνῃκαρπόν, it shall have died—fruit) This passage contains a previous specimen of both [His death-sufferings—and the fruit], John 12:27; John 12:32. The many ages since portray and exhibit the much fruit. [So also, even among those who live in our time, there are some little grains of this kind. It is happy for him, who can with truth reckon himself among the number.—V. g.]Verse 24. - The oracle is introduced with a solemn Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except the corn (or, grain) of wheat, having fallen to the ground, die, it abideth by itself alone: but if it die, it beareth much fruit. The simple illustration of life through death, life triumphing over death. "Even nature protests against the Hellenic fear of death" (Lange). As long as the corn of wheat is scrupulously kept from decomposition and death in the granary, the hidden germ is dormant; let it be sown as "bare grain" (1 Corinthians 15:36, etc.), then the strange force within it puts forth its hidden faculty, the outer covering of this point of energy falls away, and the new thing appears. God gives it a body, and much fruit is brought forth. Thoma suggests that the Johannist here is putting into the lips of Jesus the thoughts of Paul. How much more probable is it that Paul grasped the thought of Jesus, and applied a part of it to the grand argument for the resurrection, both of Christ and Christians! Compare with this the teaching of John 6, where the Bread of life is given for the food of men. Even the "bread-making" for man involves, in another way, the temporary destruction of the living germ in the grain of which it is composed, that it may become the life of men. Christ is himself the "Son of God," the "Logos incarnate," the "Son of man." By becoming, in his death, the food of man's soul, he created thus a new life in the hearts of men. Over and over again our Lord has declared himself to be "the Life," and "the Source of life," for men; but he here lays down the principle that this life-giving power of his is conditioned by his death. The great harvest will be reaped only when he shall have sacrificed his life and put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. It is, too, only as every believing man dies to himself, is crucified with Christ, is dead with him to the world, that he rises again in the newness of life. Verily, verily

See on John 1:51; see on John 10:1.

A corn (ὁ κόκκος)

Properly, the corn or grain. The article should be inserted in the translation, because Jesus is citing the wheat-grain as a familiar type of that which contains in itself the germ of life. So wheat has the article: the corn of the wheat. The selection of the corn of wheat as an illustration acquires a peculiar interest from the fact of its being addressed to Greeks, familiar with the Eleusinian mysteries celebrated in their own country. These mysteries were based on the legend of Dionysus (Bacchus). According to the legend his original name was Zagreus. He was the son of Zeus (Jupiter) by his own daughter Persephone (Proserpina), and was destined to succeed to supreme dominion and to the wielding of the thunderbolt. The jealousy of Here (Juno), the wife of Zeus, incited the Titans against him, who killed him while he was contemplating his face in a mirror, cut up his body, and boiled it in a caldron, leaving only the heart. Zeus, in his wrath, hurled the Titans to Tartarus, and Apollo collected the remains of Zagreus and buried them. The heart was given to Semele, and Zagreus was born again from her under the form of Dionysus. The mysteries represented the original birth from the serpent, the murder and dismemberment of the child, and the revenge inflicted by Zeus; and the symbols exhibited - the dice, ball, top, mirror, and apple - signified the toys with which the Titans allured the child into their power. Then followed the restoration to life; Demeter (Ceres) the goddess of agriculture, the mother of food, putting the limbs together, and giving her maternal breasts to the child. All this was preparatory to the great Eleusinia, in which the risen Dionysus in the freshness of his second life was conducted from Athens to Eleusis in joyful procession. An ear of corn, plucked in solemn silence, was exhibited to the initiated as the object of mystical contemplation, as the symbol of the god, prematurely killed, but, like the ear enclosing the seed-corn, bearing within himself the germ of a second life.

With this mingled the legend of Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, who was carried off by Pluto to the infernal world. The mother wandered over the earth seeking her daughter, and having found her, applied to Zeus, through whose intervention Persephone, while condemned to Hades for a part of the year, was allowed to remain upon earth during the other part. Thus the story became the symbol of vegetation, which shoots forth in spring, and the power of which withdraws into the earth at other seasons of the year. These features of the mysteries set forth, and with the same symbol as that employed by Christ here, the crude pagan conception of life rising out of death.

Alone (αὐτὸς μόνος)

Literally, itself alone. Rev., by itself alone.

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