This pastoral passage was written for LRBC for October 21 2018.
In the fourth and final scenario of Jesus’ parable of the sower (Matt. 13:8, 23), we come to the ideal outcome for someone hearing the message of the kingdom. The metaphorical seed germinates, puts down deep roots, and does what it is ultimately supposed to do: produce fruit. Fruit is metaphorical for the results of a changed life: continued faith and repentance, growth in Christian character and holiness, and further spreading of the message of the kingdom.
It is interesting that out of the four scenarios, it is only this kind of hearer that is said to actually ‘understand’ the gospel. This understanding must be more than a mere grasping of the facts of the gospel, for it is desire and commitment that is also required in order to put down deep roots in the gospel and to pull the weeds that stunt its growth.
When considering how it is that we may ‘bear much fruit’, my mind went to another of the Gospels – to John 15:1-12. Here Jesus speaks to his disciples about how they can bear much fruit, by considering a parable of a vine and its branches. What strikes me about this passage is its different emphasis. Matthew’s Gospel is big on believers taking responsibility to demonstrate the genuineness of their Christian identity – as the Baptist put it, to “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance!” (Matt. 3:8).
John 15’s thinking calls us in another direction. Here we are instead instructed that in order to produce fruit we must ‘abide’ (remain) in Jesus. By staying connected to Jesus, walking with him and letting his word dwell in us, HIS life produces the fruit in us. This is a different approach to fruitfulness. It is less about us worrying about our own efforts, and more about his efforts through us as we instead concentrate on fellowship with him. Responsibility is still found in John’s approach, but the emphasis is shifted from where we find it in Matthew.
Abide in Him!