Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Monday, February 03, 2014

The Importance of Bearing Fruit - Jesus & the Fig Tree - Matthew 21:18-19

In the coming months, many farmers will be thinking about the coming harvest.  Yes, they are already thinking about the harvest.  Thinking about the harvest tells them what they need to plant.  After all, if they want to reap corn, they won’t be planting clover.  And thinking about the harvest tells them how and when to prepare the soil, when to plant the seed and how to take care of it.  They’ll be thinking of the kind of weather they need, when the rain needs to fall, how much rain is too little or too much.

In everything he does to get ready, the farmer is thinking about the harvest and what he hopes to get from his efforts.  No farmer would plant any seed without the intention of getting a harvest.  No farmer wants their crop to fail.  No farmer is content with doing all that work and not getting any fruit from their efforts.

For a farmer to get to the time of harvest, but have no fruit for his efforts is tragic.  He would consider it a waste.  He certainly would not be comfortable with that situation.  He would not be content nor would he accept it.

He would try to figure out what went wrong.  Why did he have no fruit from his crop?  What does he need to do differently next season?  Did he use the wrong fertilizer, the wrong pesticide?  Was a rival farmer poisoning his field?  Should he plant something else or the same thing?

Something has to be done differently because another season of fruitlessness will bring ruin.  This farmer would never be content or comfortable with a season full of work but no fruit, no harvest to show for it.

But too many of us in the church are comfortable.  Too many Christians are OK with fruitlessness.  Your life is like the season for the farmer.  You and I must be looking toward the harvest and the fruit of our labors.

Because there is Danger of Fruitlessness.

There is an unusual moment in the life of Jesus when He is leading His disciples into Jerusalem.  As they walk, Jesus sees a Fig tree in leaf and He goes over looking for some figs but there are none

Matthew 21:18-19—“18 Early in the morning, as He was returning to the city, He was hungry. 19 Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He went up to it and found nothing on it except leaves. And He said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” At once the fig tree withered.

This tree had all the signs of life—it had plenty of leaves, but no fruit. Apparently there were no early indicators of fruit, no flowers, no buds or anything.  It wasn’t as if all of this tree’s fruit had already been harvested by someone else because Jesus found “nothing but leaves.”  This tree was just consuming resources but producing nothing in return.

Notice two things about this Scripture.  First,

1.    Jesus Searches for Fruit

You and I, as well as our church are just like that tree.  And from time to time, Jesus will come and inspect our fruitfulness.  The question is what is He going to find when He examines my tree, your tree, the tree that is this church?

What kind of fruit are we producing?  If we are honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that we don’t like being inspected and evaluated.  But we have to understand that Jesus has every right to inspect us and examine our fruit.

Jesus tells a parable about the owner of vineyard

Luke 13:6-9—“6 And He told this parable: “A man had a fig tree that was planted in his vineyard. He came looking for fruit on it and found none.”

Notice that the owner came looking for fruit expecting to find some.  The owner had shown the interest, taken the initiative and invested in planting a vineyard and in this vineyard, he had planted a fig tree.

That’s how Jesus is with us.  He comes and searches our lives.  Much like He inspects the churches in the early chapters of Revelation and walks among the seven golden lampstands.

2.   Jesus Wants & Expects to Find Fruit

7 He told the vineyard worker, ‘Listen, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it even waste the soil?’ 8 “But he replied to him, ‘Sir, leave it this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 Perhaps it will bear fruit next year, but if not, you can cut it down.’”

The owner of the vineyard gives ample time for the vineyard to produce fruit.  He even gives additional time and extra effort—digging around and fertilizing.

Jesus is just like the owner in this parable—you and I are the vineyard, this church is the fig tree.  And He wants to find fruit.  He expects to find fruit in us.

Fruit is the natural produce of a living and growing tree.  But there’s more.

3.   Lack of fruit brings judgment

The owner called for the tree to be cut down.  When Jesus saw the fig tree on the side of the road in full leaf but no fruit, He cursed it and the opportunity to produce fruit was lost.  Jesus said, “May no fruit ever come from you again.”

Jesus curses it even though it was not the season for figs.  But a tree like this with no fruit is not normal or natural.  If it has all the signs of life, then fruit is a part of that life.  Can a fig tree that never produces figs really be called a fig tree?  In the same way, can a Christian who never produces any fruit, any other Christians, really be called a Christian? 

A Christian by definition is going to be someone who seeks to bear fruit not just in their own lives but also in the lives of others.  We do this through sharing the love of God and our testimony through evangelism and by growing disciples through teaching the Word of God.

No believer can be pleasing to God if they have all the signs of life: faith in God, knowledge of the Word of God, etc., but has no fruit.  We are given new life, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be His witnesses and produce fruit.  When we are not, something is wrong in our walk with Christ.

Back in 2012, I lived in western Kentucky.  That year, the region experienced a bad drought that ruined the corn crop.  I remember going to a church’s corn maze and seeing the stalks, leaves and husks in that field.  It was all so thin that you could easily see the other paths that were supposed to be hidden by lush and healthy corn.  Before we left, I picked some of the corn and pulled back the husk.  It was truly sad.  There were so few kernels on that corn.  Most never developed.  The few that did were small and immature.

We see this corn and know that it is wrong.  It is wrong for it to be unfruitful.  It shouldn’t look like this.  It represents loss, wasted seed, wasted time, wasted season. 

And that is so not what God wants for us—Fruitlessness is not the heart of God for us nor is it the sign of a disciple of Jesus. 

John 15:8—“My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.”

So God desires that we produce fruit—not just a little but much fruit.  And that fruit is the proof that we belong to Him.

We’ll be getting into that in the weeks to come.

The good news is that not only does God desire fruit in us, He provides all that we need, the power to be fruitful for Him.

Even more, no matter how long it’s been since we have think we have borne fruit for His Kingdom, Jesus continues to reach out to us—continues to give us opportunity to be fruitful—He will fertilize us all with the hopes of seeing us be who He has called us to be—bearing Much Fruit for His Glory.

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