“And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” – Mark 4:8 ESV
This is my (alleged) tomato plant. I am alleging that this is a picture of a tomato plant because that’s what the little soil tag said when I bought the plant from Lowe’s back in May. However, I do not have one tomato growing on this bush. Thus, the soil tag only alleges that this plant is a tomato plant.
I love tomatoes. There is nothing better than eating a freshly picked tomato, sliced and salted (my mouth just watered typing that). And I believe that the best tomatoes are home-grown. So it was with great excitement that I planted my little tomato plant back in May. Visions of beefsteak tomatoes danced in my head. “Come July or August,” I thought, “I should be swimming in tomatoes.” Joy grew in my heart as the little vine grew. Well, July has come and gone and I have yet to harvest one tomato from this plant, let alone even have one growing on the vine. Joy over my little vine has turned into wretched annoyance over this over-grown plant of perdition.
As I pondered my fruitlessness of my (alleged) tomato plant, I couldn’t help but think about how the themes of fruit and fruitlessness permeate the Gospels . John the Baptist warned the Pharisees to produce fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8). In fact, the axe was already laid at the root of the trees. Those that did not produce would be cut down and burned (Matthew 3:10). Once Jesus began his public ministry, he began talking just like the Baptist. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says almost exactly the same thing as John. Those trees cut down and burned are trees that produce bad fruit (Matthew 7:19). Earlier in the section, Jesus says that we will know whether someone is a false prophet by their fruit (Matthew 7:16-18). All throughout the rest of Matthew, Jesus is talking about the importance of fruit. The good seed, falls on good soil and produces good fruit. Destruction comes upon the wicked tenants who refuse the owner his fruit and the religious leaders have the Kingdom stripped from them and given to those who produce its fruits (Matthew 21:43). Jesus seems completely uninterested in the size of the vine or the broadness of its leaves. All that matters is the fruit. Is it good? Does it come in season? Then all is well. What is concerning is when the fruit is bad, or doesn’t come at all.
Mark, Luke and John all continue the theme. Good fruit is desirous, nay necessary for following Jesus. He makes this explicit in John 15:5. Jesus is the source from which good fruit comes. If you are connected to him, abiding in him, you will bear much fruit. But apart from him, you will bear nothing. Your life will never produce the fruits that are in keeping with repentance (which is a gift from God. Acts 11:18; 2Corinthians 7:10; Romans 2:4). This is how we know if we are truly connected to Jesus. Does our life bear fruit that would cause others to say, “yup, that’s a follower of Jesus.”
But what does this fruit look like? How do we know what we are looking for? Thankfully, the apostle Paul has given us the definitive list. Galatians 5:22-24 states, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” This is what good fruit looks like. It looks like Jesus. Because Jesus is the source from which they come.
The last phrase Paul uses there is significant as well. Those who walk by the Spirit produce the fruit listed and they do not produce any of the bad fruit (i.e. works of the flesh) mentioned proceeding the quotation. The flesh has undergone crucifixion. It is dead. It no longer produces its poisonous fruit; that include things like orgies and drunkenness, but also some other seemingly innocuous attitudes like divisiveness or fits of anger or jealousy (which ought to tell us that they are far more dangerous than we think…which should further tell us that our gut reactions will probably lead us straight to hell).
And it’s at this point that we must not sit back and say, “hum, that’s intriguing” before we stagger off to bed or lunch or the television. My barren tomato plant is speaking to us! And it is saying, “Don’t be like me!” Let us not forget that the fruit of our lives is the evidence of our faith. Ever-increasing in our likeness to Christ Jesus is the goal. Let it never be said of us that we are allegedly a Christian. May our fruit be so obvious to all that we could never be mistaken for anything other than a disciple of Jesus, the Son of God. As the author of Hebrews admonishes us, “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11).
BACK TO POST1 This theme is also quite prevalent throughout the whole of Scripture, but examining all the ways fruit is used in Scripture would be a book, not a blog post! I would also submit that my treatment of just the Gospels will fall quite short of the label “exhaustive”.