“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24
Easter, which focuses on the death and resurrection of Jesus, is considered the most important element of the Christian faith. Humankind was condemned to suffering and death at that moment Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden. Jesus, it is believed, gave his life for those willing to accept and profess this ultimate sacrifice as their only hope for eternal life.
The above passage from John, written approximately twenty years after the death of Jesus, was undoubtedly intended by the author as a literary device intended to foreshadow the coming crucifixion. And yet it is so much more than this. The life of the fruit-bearing plant emerges from the death of the seed. The potential within the seed cannot be unleashed unless the shackles of the seed-self are broken. Only then can the seed submit to the transforming process of becoming something much greater than an individual kernel. One seed cannot fall to the ground, die, and be transformed for another. Each seed must engage in its own death and emergence as something more than it is at present.
The seed represents our self-image and the perception of the world we have created as existing apart from God. Using this seed metaphor, we look at the Easter story as the death of the human self and the emergence of the divine. We are not to merely witness or proclaim as a cornerstone of faith this seemingly miraculous event. We are to engage in the very process itself. Not even a Jesus can eradicate the shackles of the self-image of another. Every person must take up his or her own cross, so to speak, and commit to this transformation.
We are looking for freedom from this earthly bondage. Because we cannot find it here, we have projected the achievement of ultimate freedom into the afterlife. From the Christian perspective, the condition is that we accept Jesus’ death as our only means to this glorious end. True salvation, however, is found neither in the act of another nor in a profession of faith that such an act is true. We must actually die to the seed-self that restricts us so that our fruit-bearing soul may emerge.
The seed is not punished for remaining a seed. It is simply being shown that the seed life it clings to can never deliver the freedom it longs for. The cost of one’s spiritual freedom cannot be paid by another. Each must submit to their own soul-searching process of falling to the ground and dying to their seed-self. And we’re not talking about the great reward in the afterlife. The seed and the plant inhabit the same world, but they experience it quite differently. So it is with us. We do not find our spiritual fulfillment elsewhere. We experience it to the degree that we become willing to let go of our body-based identity and come to know ourselves as the boundless soul that we are in truth.
The message of Easter is an invitation to reconsider what it is we are waiting for. Pluck one seed from a handful and drop it to the ground. Each kernel that remains in the hand witnesses and marvels at the transformation undergone by their fellow seed. They discuss it for generations and it becomes so far removed from their understanding of their seed-based reality that they come to believe that particular seed was something different from themselves. It was obviously a highly evolved, specially chosen seed that had become worthy of being selected.
Not so. The relevance and power of the accomplishment of one is found in the truth that it is just like the others. The difference is not in ability. The difference is in the power of choice based on a broader understanding of what a seed actually is.
The invitation of Easter stands for all. We can struggle within the confines of the self-image and hope that a savior passes by. We can bide our time and anticipate salvation in the afterlife, doing our best in the meantime to stay on the straight and narrow. Or, we can embrace the message of Easter as our story, our opportunity to rethink our presence here as something much more than a seed cursed with the unquenchable desire to bear much fruit. We can engage in our own Easter process in a way that fulfills our deepest longing for the truth that actually sets us free.