We planted a vegetable garden in our back yard earlier this year. This is the second year we’ve done this. It isn’t a large garden, but we do have cucumbers, zucchinis, peas, beans, tomatoes, and pumpkins. So far this season, the cucumbers and zucchinis have been yielding the most, although the other vegetables are starting to come in.
We planted this garden a couple months ago from seeds. We went to the store, bought a few packets of seeds, and then the kids and I planted them in the garden. It is amazing to me how far these seeds have come. They looked dead in the packets, like something that should be discarded. Yet, once planted in the ground and watered, they began to sprout up. They are now living plants, producing vegetables that we greatly enjoy.
When I reflect on the mystery of the garden, the following text from John’s Gospel comes to mind:
And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
Jesus uses the image of a grain of wheat dying and then rising, just like how planting the dead seeds resulted in life and vegetables. We are like seeds that are planted and watered by God and then produce good fruit.
God does this planting and watering to us in Baptism. In Baptism, we die and rise. We were once dead in our sins, but in Baptism God has killed us; He has put us to death, burying us in the soil. So, our old nature, which was bound and held captive by sin, has been put to death and buried. We have died to the old.
But, God doesn’t kill us to leave us dead. Instead, He raises us up in Baptism to be new creations. We were born into the image of Adam, bound by sin and condemned to eternal death. In Baptism, though, we die and put off the old Adam and put on the new image of Christ. God clothes us with the righteousness of Christ and rebirths us into his image.
That is why Jesus says that a person who loves their life loses it and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. The point is that we must die to what we once were in order to be raised to eternal life. Our lives that we have when we are born are dead lives; we are like the living dead, since we are born in the sinful image of Adam and condemned to eternal death. Therefore, we must die to what we once were in order to be raised up to eternal life in Christ. God does this to us in Baptism, connecting our own Baptisms with Christ’s Baptism, his death and resurrection. Christ died for our sins and was raised in order to justify us before God, and in our Baptisms God gives us the benefits of Christ’s own death and resurrection along with the gift of the Holy Spirit so that we may have faith in this promise.
So, our eternal lives begin in Baptism, because we have already died and been raised into the image of Christ. Then, like seeds which have sprouted and produce vegetables, we also produce the good fruit of faith. This is a consequence of what God has made us. By rebirthing us into the image of Christ, He causes us to be fruitful. Jesus talks about this more in John 15, where he uses the image of a grape vine. We have been grafted onto the vine of Christ as branches; as a result, we produce the fruit that a healthy vine produces.
So, the next time you plant a cold, dry seed in the ground, reflect on what God has done and is doing for you. He took you, who were once cold and dry, and killed this old nature of yours in order to make you alive in Christ. Like a seed which rises up to produce fruit, you have risen up out of the waters of Baptism into a new life in Christ. God continues to feed and water you through Word and Sacrament. And when the day comes when your body will be laid to rest in the ground, know that Christ is returning for you at the end of the age to raise you up again to inherit the eternal life he began for you in your Baptism.