07 March 2012

Jesus Wants Fruit

Luke 13:6-9

Jesus tells us not to be concerned about being burned at the stake or having our bodies dismembered and scattered to the four corners of the kingdom.  As we saw in the previous teaching, Jesus wants us to focus on life and not death.

And in beginning our focus on life, Jesus wants us to repent.  To stop, confess, ask forgiveness and walk in the opposite direction than the one we did before.

So the natural question is, "How do we know we are doing that? How do we know we are doing what God requires of us?"  The Master Teacher illustrates his point with a story.

Fruit is another major theme of the Bible.  And, why wouldn't it be?  All of us eat.  And we all love to eat the various fruit that can be grown from the ground around the world.  So, it's a natural way for the Creator to communicate with each person what he has wanted and what he always wants from us.

The first command God gives is "Be fruitful and multiply."  He tells the nation of Israel that one of the ways they should remember God's goodness is that after they are given the Promised Land, they will eat fruit from vines they did not plant.  He gives a vision to a king and the symbol he uses for prosperity is a beautiful tree that provides abundant fruit for all.

In the New Testament, John the Baptist and Jesus link fruit and repentance.  John tells the religious leaders to "produce fruit worthy of repentance".

And here, Jesus again pounds home the lesson that people who repent will produce fruit.

In this simple story, Jesus teaches about His Father's grace but also about His Father's judgement.

It seems in the Kingdom of God, not all plants are equal.  Ask any farmer or gardener.  The point of a farm or a garden is not for the land to look green, but for the land to produce something that is of use for them, their families and anyone who needs that product.  Farmers have little patience for crops that do not have a yield. 

Land is finite.  Soil's nutrients are not constant.  If a tree is taking up valuable space, the farmer needs it to be productive.  If it is just taking up space without providing anything for the farmer, a wise farmer replaces that tree with one that will produce.

The landowner in Jesus' story talks about three years of seeing a fruitless tree.  It's time for it to go.  But the gardener convinces the owner to give it one more year as the gardener will give the tree its best effort to give the tree the best possible chance.  But, if after all that effort, the tree doesn't produce figs, it will be removed.

This story is told after Jesus repeats to the people, "Unless you repent, you will perish as they did."

So, what does the fruit look like?  How do we know we are being fruitful?  Jesus will talk about this some more, but for now the description of fruit will start with Paul's teaching about the Fruit of the Spirit:

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control

That seems like a good place to start.  God thank you for your patience, thank you for your continued working in and around me so that my life would be productive.

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