Do you have a fruit tree at home? My grampa took care of an apple orchard on his farm. He cared for the trees, sprayed them, picked the apples, and sold them on the farm and at local farmers markets. He had tons of raspberry plants too in his large back yard. He cared for them all up into his last year.
Fruit trees bear fruit. That’s what God designed them to do. That’s why apple trees produce apples, pears produce pears, oranges produce oranges, grapefruits produce grapefruits, and so on. But the quality of the fruit varies. It all depends on the health of the tree. Are worms finding the fruit? Is it protected from bugs or kids who turn the fruit into baseballs?
Jesus compares us to fruit trees. We shouldn’t be surprised by that. After all, if you eat a bad fruit, you might get sick. If you eat a good fruit, it will help you be healthy and strong. But it goes deeper than that. It’s not just a picture Jesus took from the way things are in creation. Jesus is subtly reminding us about what happened at the beginning of time. God created a garden full of fruit trees. Most especially He made the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
We don’t know what kind of fruit these trees produced. People have all sorts of theories, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is the promise God attached to each tree. He promised if they ate of the tree of life, they would never die, they would live forever. He also promised that if they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would die. It wasn’t that the fruit was poisonous. It was because He said “The day you eat of it is the day you will die.”
Adam and Eve never did eat from the tree of life. We don’t even know if they ever saw it or touched it. If they didn’t, they should have. I wish they would have gone right to it and eaten it to live forever as perfect and holy in God’s sight. But before they ever had a chance, the snake slithered up to them. He found them by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Perhaps Adam had just told Eve they weren’t supposed to eat it.
He slithered and hissed. He told them a lie. That lie is that God is a liar. They wouldn’t die if they ate that tree. Instead they’d know both good AND evil. They only knew good. They should have realized they were better off that way. But they decided they wanted to know evil. This knowledge is not just realizing it exists. It’s knowing it by experience, not just because you feel it around you, but because you are corrupted by it.
They ate bad fruit, and that fruit corrupted them and all their descendants, all mankind. It has made us all bad. A bad tree produces bad fruits, Jesus says, and God does not lie. He accurately assesses our situation in this world. We are sinners, and we live in a sinful world. So it shouldn’t surprise us when the ungodly do ungodly things. We see it and hear about it all the time these days in our land; it seems less and less to be the Christian nation we knew when we were young. People promote utter and open godlessness in all walks of life, through businesses and the courts and any way they can do it. The world is bad because it’s full of sin. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and if the tree is bad, the fruit will be bad.
But in today’s Gospel Jesus doesn’t want us to focus on those outside His Church. He wants us to focus on us. Are you, O Christian, producing the fruits of The Spirit? Or are you producing the fruits of the flesh? If the world were watching you, would it know you’re a Christian? Or would it think you’re just another person who doesn’t have or doesn’t care to have Jesus in your life?
Our Lord desires us to remember Him. He desires us to proclaim His Death until He comes. He wants us to confess Him before men when the opportunity comes. But He also wants us to live like it. He wants us to say one thing and do the same too. He does not want us to say one thing but do the other. He wants our actions to match our confession. He wants our flesh to be mortified.
How can we do that? Think about your station in life: dad, mom; son, daughter; husband, wife; worker. Ask yourself: Are you disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? Are you hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome? Do you hurt people with your words and deeds? Do you steal, are you negligent, do you waste anything, do you harm anybody or anything? Have you ever done any of these things or been any of these things at some point in your life? What would The Ten Commandments say to you? Would they say you’ve been a good parent or child, spouse or employee?
No, they’d say you got too mad at your kid or your spouse, you were rude for no reason, you didn’t do your job as well as you could have. You didn’t take care of your things but you did get into a fight. You have treated God’s Word as only an occasional part of your life, not the very heart and core of your life. You have not always produced the fruits of faith in your life. You have not always looked like a Christian, but you’ve looked like everybody else. That doesn’t mean you didn’t wear clothing that says you’re a Christian. It means you acted just like the ungodly.
What’s the answer to our problem? How can we produce the fruits of The Spirit? Repent of your sins. Then you will produce fruits in keeping with repentance, the fruits of The Spirit. Be truly sorry you have sinned against God and your fellow man. Believe Jesus has died for all your sins. Desire to do what is better. Desire to keep God’s commands.
Where does that will and desire come from? It does not come from hearing The Law. The Law can only tell you what you have not done and what you deserve for your sin. The Gospel tells you what He has done for you. It tells you you are now a son of God. God’s Son has died for you. God’s Son took into Himself all the fruits of your wickedness and sin. He ate it all. He laid down His life. But He is not dead. He rose to life. Now He wants to give you that same life. He wants you to eat from the tree of life. This message encourages you to live the way God desires.
Adam and Eve were not allowed to eat the tree of life. They would have lived forever in sin and been unable to repent of their sin. But Jesus came to take away sin. He came to be the new tree of life. Death came forth from a living tree, so life comes forth from a dead tree, The Cross. From this tree come fruits, the fruits of Jesus’ Passion: forgiveness of sins, life everlasting, and eternal salvation.
So eat the fruits. Think of God’s loving-kindness in the midst of His Temple and receive the very things He won for you, that He paid for with His Blood and Death. Eat the fruit of life in true faith, and you have everlasting life. Believing His Word = eating the fruits of Jesus, our Tree of Life. That fruit will work in you to produce the fruits of repentance, the fruits of The Spirit. He will work in you to do what is pleasing in His sight. He will give you the spirit to think and do whatever is right. We can do no good thing without Him, but He enables us to live according to His will.