Rather surprisingly in the passage we see that Jesus had no time for sentimental notions about human life. He knew all its reality. According to the Gospel writers, He was aware that His own life was going to be cut short.
The stance He took, the things He did, the people He met and talked to, His outspoken attacks on the religious and political authorities alike, all these things combined to make it certain that He would not be allowed to live into old age.
In John’s Gospel in particular, we find Him trying to break through the disciple’s denial and misunderstanding, to prepare them for His death and what it will mean.
If we look around us now, we can see the signs of Spring all around us; Creation’s way of introducing us to rebirth and resurrection.
Jesus and the disciples lived close to nature; some were farmers, some were fishermen.
They knew the cycles of nature; they knew how powerless humans can be in the face of nature’s insistence.
So, Jesus turns to Nature for a metaphor to try and help them understand.
He speaks of a single grain.
Held in the hand it is useless; it needs to be put into the ground where it breaks down as if it were dead.
From that death, life grows, a plant with many grains that can be used for food.
Jesus is trying to explain that this is what His death is all about.
His affect on the world will me limited while He remains alive.
But from His death will come new life for all the world.
This is why He is not trying to avoid death. He knows that true life, for Him and for those who come after Him, only comes on the other side of death.
Jesus is not just speaking of Himself.
He talks too about His followers needing to be ready to lose their lives in order to gain life.
Being afraid of death, trying to delay it at all costs, trying to defeat the signs of ageing, all these things preoccupy people.
The obsession with preserving our lives, as they are, prevents us from focusing on the kind of life that really matters, life that is full and generous and truthful.
We, understandably, mostly take the road of avoidance, we try to forget about death until we can no longer avoid it.
We cling on to youth and beauty and a hope that cures will be found for anything that might kill us.
It is hard to face up to death, both our own and those we love, and our society does not help us.
We live with a nagging fear, buried deep inside us, which we push away rather than face up to.
But facing up to it, Jesus suggests, is the way to real life, in which we know our limitations and can be honest about them, and not be afraid to take risks for the sake of love and truth.
The result, according to our Gospel reading, is worth it.
The result is eternal life.