Tuesday, August 19, 2008



The image of fruit, bearing fruit and fruitfulness is most vivid and illustrative of what it means to follow Jesus and His Kingdom. Jesus seems to return to this as one of His favorite ways of explaining how this relationship with Him is to work. He warns His disciples to beware of false teachers and gives them a telltale sign to discern the difference between true and false teachers-their fruit. He says, "You will know them by their fruit."

When speaking to the religious leadership who had continually rejected Jesus and His presentation of the Kingdom, Jesus says: "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit." (Matthew 21) NOTE the Kingdom will taken away from those who are not fruitful and will be given to those who are fruitful!

There are two more key times when Jesus uses the image of fruitfulness. I will deal with one of them today and finish out the week with the other. After Jesus has been soundly rejected by the religious leadership who have attributed the source of Jesus' works as from the Devil, himself, Jesus delineates what form the Kingdom will now take.

He extensively describes the Kingdom in Matthew 13 with 8 parables. Using the teaching method of parables was meant to sort out those who have ears to hear and eyes to see and those who do not. I believe the invisible form of the Kingdom Jesus described is present right here right now. The only action within these parables is the sowing of the seed and the seed will be scattered upon four kinds of soil.

Jesus illustrates receptivity (ears to hear) by the use of four soils-by the side of the road, the rocky places, among the thorns and the good soil. These represent what kind of receptivity you might expect as you participate in the sowing of the seed of the Gospel and, these soils also illustrate the various degrees of receptivity we each experience in our own lives.

Now note the interpretation of these soils: (1) The soil beside the road. 18 "Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When people hear the message about the kingdom and do not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their hearts. This is the seed sown along the path. NOTE what the message that is being sown here is-the Kingdom. This blows my mind. I have heard this, read it, and taught this passage for many years, but I never saw that the message that is being planted is the message of the Kingdom. And, it is this message that those who are the soil along the path hear, but do not understand. Since there is no understanding of what they are hearing, the seed is snatched away.

(2) The soil in rocky places. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to people who hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. NOTE the Kingdom message is referred to in the next three soils as the word. This soil on the rocky ground is quite shallow, therefore the seed cannot take root and lasts for a short time. Jesus points out that the problem here is trouble and persecution. These overcome those who are the soil on the rocky ground. And, it's because of the word or the Kingdom message that they are finding trouble and being persecuted. This persecution is most likely verbal as Jesus has mentioned before.

(3) The soil among the thorns. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to people who hear the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. NOTE the seed here falls among the thorns. This is where people hear the word or the Kingdom message and the word is choked. The choking or smothering of the word is due to the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth. Worries of this life is when you allow the stresses that surround you and threaten your security to overwhelm you, instead of placing your trust in Him. The deceitfulness of wealth is thinking that there is some sort of security in money, places and things. This is perhaps the greatest "over-promise and under-deliver" proposition in this world, believing this stuff can make you happy or might be fulfilling. The end result is that this soil is unfruitful.

(4) The good soil. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to people who hear the word and understand it. They produce a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown." NOTE that the entire goal has to do with fruitfulness. Only one out of four of the soils is productive or fruitful. And, the fruitfulness listed as the "good soil" here is monumental-phenomenal fruitfulness.

Check out four observations about these soils and fruitfulness: 1-Jesus is the sower of the seed. In Matthew's version of this teaching (Matt. 13:37) Jesus says that the Son of Man is the sower. When Jesus was physically on the earth, His words were pitched out to those who listened to Him. Today, Jesus is still sowing the seed as we introduce the person of Jesus to others through our lives and through our own stories.

2-The seed is the word of God. What the word of God meant to Jesus was the "Good News of the kingdom of God." This is what His primary message was as He taught throughout the villages and synagogues. Therefore, the word of God is the active presence of God in us in the form of a seed.

3-This word of the kingdom of God has tremendous spiritual power within us to be productive-to be fruitful. It was able to produce amazing levels of fruit.

4-Its effect on you is determined by your response to it. It's all a matter of responsiveness. NOTE that you are not responsible to bring forth the fruit, but the power of the seed will produce the fruit if planted in the good soil.

Fruitfulness will be present in those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. Non-fruit or bad fruit will follow those whose ears are closed and whose eyes are shut off from the Good News message of the Kingdom. I see each of these 4 soils as fluid. In other words, we have all been each one of these soils at one time or another. Can you remember the times you were one or more of these soils? One more question: So, where are you when you measure your receptivity to the seed Jesus is sowing in your life right now? Remember, it's all about fruitfulness!