I’ve tried several times to start this post, but each time I’ve hit a wall. My attempts at anecdotal illustration just seem to fall flat in light of what I want to say, what I need you to hear. So, I’m just going to say what’s in my heart and on my mind. I hope you’ll bear with me.
I did something this week that I’ve never done before. It was sorrowful and difficult and tragic. I know that there are others who are far more painfully affected than I am, and to them my thoughts, prayers, support and comfort are extended. To them this was more than a punch in the face. It was an excruciating ripping out of the heart!
On Tuesday I watched a former student, a friend-who-was-like-a-son-to-me, be buried.
I don’t like death very much even though I’ve been exposed to it for a very long time. As I reflect on the events of the passed week which lead up to the funeral, there are a few recurring themes that rise above this trauma.
I grew up on a farm with lots to animals. I learned early what it meant to care for something, to be responsible for a life that’s dependent on my diligence. But I also learned that when there’s life, there eventually comes death. At times death on the farm was senseless. Either due to disease or deformity, an animal had to be euthanized. That was painful to watch and as I grew older, painful to implement. But death, which is so hated by the LORD, can produce something greater than tears and this is where I am, again, today.
There’s something sacred about life that most people, whether they believe the story of Bible or not, seem to grasp. And when a life ends there’s something sacred about that, too. The Hebrew Scriptures tell us that God made humanity in His own image (Genesis 1:26). I’m not going to unpack that here, but it does provide an important backdrop to the sorrow that we feel when a person dies. Those same Scriptures also reveal that death was not part of the original plan, but it entered – like a fungus that destroys – with humanity choosing to distance themselves from the source of LIFE (Genesis 2-3 and Romans 5:12). And that destruction and that choosing continue today (Romans 5:17-21).
I stayed late at the cemetery on Tuesday. Late enough to be one of the last people to drive away, down the gravel path out to the main road. I watched as work-clothed caretakers lowered the casket, quite carefully and respectfully, into the awaiting ground. They lowered it as if it were the very first time they were fulfilling their calling. Not in the sense of cluelessness but in a way that screamed absolute reverence. As I watched the words of Jesus came to mind.
This is the first theme that resounds in my heart.
I watched a seed be placed in the ground at that cemetery, as I recalled the words spoken earlier that day by Tom Jr., Jeremy's brother. He pleaded with the people to live as Jeremy had. Not in the poor choices he made, as all of us have made, but with the one decision he had made, to rely on Jesus for the care and forgiveness of his soul and sins. As I sat in my truck I wondered not what good could come from this, but what good would come from this. There’s a huge difference in those questions, you know. One is shrouded in sorrow and darkness, the other in wonder and hope.
Now, to be clear, the words Jesus chose to use are important. In a very practical sense, a kernel of wheat has great value above of the soil. Wheat provides food and the kernel is what is processed for that food. It contains life – that which is necessary for sustenance. So, when a kernel of wheat is placed in the ground there’s a forfeiture of that which is certain for that which is hoped for.
I’m a gardener and I know that not all seeds germinate into plants. I also know that weed seeds produce weeds and bean seeds produce beans. So, the kind of seed that falls to the ground, giving up the life that is now for the hope that could be, is absolutely essential. Jeremy, solely because of his dependency on Jesus for forgiveness and LIFE, was a good seed. I’ve seen lots of bad seeds planted, but this one was good!
So, this is what keeps coming back. A seed must die in order for it to multiply. The kind of seed that dies is absolutely essential to what is produced in that multiplication. There’s no getting around this. Therefore, I find solace in the passing of my friend because I know, due to the promises of Jesus – the first one to die and then live – that this passing is not in vain.
Here’s the second theme: Good seed produces good plants, bad seed produces bad plants.
So, the kind of fruit I produce is dependent on what kind of plant I am and what kind of plant I am is determined by the kind of seed I come from! So, what kind of seed am I?
This is where it's personal for me and it should be personal for you too. We can fill our heads with all kinds of philosophies and religions that may make us feel better but don’t leave us better off. We have to be careful about this. Even knowledge about Jesus can leave us feeling better, but unless we have a relational reliance upon Him, our knowledge won’t leave us better off.
Without Jesus, we are diseased, bad seed! That’s where we all start because the original seed, the first man and woman became infected. And guess what they produced? Yup, more infected seed! Jeremy knew this about himself full well. If Jeremy was anything it was honest, when he wasn’t pushing down trees – I mean that literally, he pushed down trees, but I digress. His response was to rely on Jesus, the One who came to change not the fruit on the trees, but the tree itself and all it’s seed. You see, Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good or to make good people better, He came to make dead people alive! He came to change our “spiritual DNA” so that we would be good seed and good trees producing good fruit.
You may say, “If not all seed germinates, how can we be sure about us?” With man this is impossible, but with God all things of the Kingdom are possible! The promise is found in Jesus. Without His life, words, death, burial and resurrection, we are hopeless and uncertain. But because Jesus rose from Hell, we have that certainty. Jesus’ resurrection is one of the most historically provable events to ever take place. Did you know this? It’s because of this that we have hope!
So, here’s the question again: What kind of tree, plant, seed are you? Know this simple fact, without a personal dependency on Jesus, not just knowing about him but a total reliance on His life, words, death and resurrection, you’re bad seed! I’m bad seed! That’s what He said (John 3:16-18). These aren’t my words, they’re Jesus’. Jeremy knew this, he acted and now I can’t wait to see how this multiplies!