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. (John 12:24 ESV) I’ve heard that verse a couple of times this weekend, so it was fresh in mind when I started reading the Exodus this morning. Let’s first put it in its proper context.
Nearly half of John’s Gospel deals with the events of the Passion week. The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem is recorded at the beginning of chapter 12, and this verse is spoken by Jesus in reference to his hour having come. A seed must fall into the ground and die just as Jesus must go down into the earth by being placed in the grave. John 12:24 is an illustration of how Jesus must die and be buried in order to rise again with new life. By being obedient to the Father’s will, Jesus will produce much fruit for the Kingdom. God speaks aloud in verse 27 and says that he has gloried Jesus’ name and will glorify it again.
We need to understand the context of the verse, what it actually means, before applying it anywhere else as an example. In Exodus chapter 1, we get a brief review of Israel and all his children coming down to Egypt. The children are listed and it is noted that Joseph was already there. Joseph had been trapped in a pit, sold into slavery and carried to Egypt. He was later cast into prison before being lifted up to sit by Pharaoh. At the end of Genesis, that is a great and wonderful thing. Many people are saved alive by the series of events which brought Joseph to Egypt. His father and brothers are honored with many gifts and a feast when they arrive. But in Exodus the situation has changed. Another Pharaoh has come to power that did not know Joseph’s family and what he had down for Egypt. This is the beginning of their 400 years of service to the Egyptians. Their service became hard labor as the Egyptians feared their strength and number. Moses would lead out a great host, possibly over one million Hebrews. But go back to Ex 1:5. Seventy persons came to Egypt from Israel’s house; Joseph was already there.
Joseph is kind of like a single seed that fell, one grain of wheat. He died and was placed in a coffin, giving his family instructions to one day carry his bones to the land of his fathers. A mighty nation grew up, not in the land promised to Abraham, but in a strange and foreign land. A quick look back to Gen. 15 reminds us this was God’s plan. He gave Abraham not only a promise but a specific set of circumstances and a time frame. Joseph could not have understood his place in the greater historical context, but in his time he walked by faith. He trusted that God was able. And like a seed that falls Joseph went down to Egypt. And died.
In Genesis 50, Joseph is like Jesus in that evil done to him brought about the good of God’s plan; many people were saved alive. In Exodus 1, Joseph is again a type of Christ in that he is like a seed that falls before producing a great Kingdom.