Seeds And Sunflowers

Growing up in Alabama, I loved snacking on sunflower seeds. I would crack the shells open and pull out a tiny little bit of deliciousness from each one. It’s hard to stop, once you start on them—especially if they’re salted. It’s also hard to imagine how those tiny tasty little seeds could ever become the massive plants that grow higher than my head and make flowers bigger than my face. When you think of it it’s kind of shocking, isn’t it?

Imagine showing someone who had never seen a sunflower that tiny seed in its tiny shell and trying to describe to them what would happen if they planted it in the ground. Imagine being the person that had never seen a sunflower, and trying to get your head around the idea that the little grey nothing in your hand could transform so completely into something so impressive and colourful. If all you knew was the seed, how could you ever guess the flower?

Let’s be honest: you couldn’t. The seed would not be enough in itself to guide your imagination to understand an end result so fundamentally different. The connection is real—the seed turns into the flower naturally, as it was made to do—but the difference between the two could hardly be greater. Of course, we don’t need to imagine sunflowers. We’ve seen them, so we know. But Paul uses seeds as an example to teach us how to use our imaginations when we think about the resurrection that Jesus has won for those who put their trust in him:

“…someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body….So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body….For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:35-38,42-44,53-54)

Paul is telling us that the reality of the resurrection is not the same as the reality we see and experience here on earth. Not even close. It is a fundamentally different kind of life—as different as the transformation of a seed into a sunflower. But how can we imagine this? None of us alive today have seen the flower of what Jesus’ resurrection life will bring to his children in its fullness. All we see right now is the seed. We see our weakness and mortality, the shame of our sin and the brokenness of our earth-bound reality. But when Jesus gives his resurrection life to a human soul, it is not to simply extend our lives as we now know them into eternity—it is to completely transform us, like a seed blooming into what it was always designed to be. When the seed breaks, he takes what was weak and mortal and perishing and through the power of his own death-defeating resurrection makes his people become powerful, immortal, and filled with glory and beauty and life beyond anything we’ve ever seen or even dreamed of on earth.

Can you imagine?

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

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