Monday, August 7, 2017

Apples and Apples [Trinity 8; St. Matthew 7:15-23]


The Lord Jesus Christ speaks to us today:

Whenever a religious conversation goes to the topic of work and we hear Jesus talking about fruit, everyone invariably runs to St. Paul where he talks about the fruit of the Spirit. Then we all start singing the Sunday School song and everyone gets along, happily ever after, the end.

This happens because St. Paul is easier to understand than Jesus. Love, joy, peace, patience and the whole lot is easily put into practice and understood by physical and emotional beings, such as us. They are easy to access. Easy to process.

If I were to preach a sermon series on love and tell you that its all you need and its what makes the world go round, you’d nod your head and feel good about yourself. If I were to give a presentation on what joy is in the Bible and say you need to find more of it in your walk with Christ, you’d clamor for more.

If I were to chide you into being peacemakers, or becoming more humble, or committing random acts of kindness and goodness; you would tell me one of two things: either that you have already done those things from your youth up or that you don’t feel like it today.

But Jesus, God in the flesh; made man; creator of both spiritual and physical, is not only making a theological, spiritual point, here. If He were, these fruits would be pretty worthless for the kingdom of heaven, because just about everyone on earth can produce these fruits, though they not benefit from them eternally.

We do not have to be seminary trained in order to read St. Matthew and understand St. Matthew writing as St. Matthew. Meaning, we can let Jesus interpret Jesus, instead of St. Paul.

So, where else does Jesus talk about fruits, in St. Matthew’s gospel, and what does He mean by the word. In the parable of the Sower, we have seed being tossed onto the good soil, dying, and yielding fruit 100 times over. Here, we may see fruit as being those brought into the Church by the preaching of the Gospel. (Mt 13)

In a similar vein, Jesus talks about the wheat and the tares, when a man sows good seed and when the wheat sprouted, it showed its fruit and the tares also.

Likewise, towards the time of His crucifixion, Jesus brings again the fruit to mind when He tells of the last day saying, “when the time of fruit drew near, He sent His slaves to the vine growers to receive His fruit.” (Mt 21:34)

Here, the fruit has already been made ripe and perfect for harvest, is noticed, and is targeted for harvesting.

What then, does St. Paul’s fruits have to do with Jesus’ fruits? In the Gospel, Christ is speaking of the creation and recreation of baptized believers. Does this mean that St. Paul is talking of something else, as in our works, completely changing what Jesus had already said?

I’m presenting a false argument here, but in hopes that you see that one: St. Paul is not against Jesus and two: the fruits spoken of by Jesus are not simply good works, but Christ Himself.

Think about it. Limiting these fruits that Jesus speaks of to mere restraint from evil and sin would only be the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. Meaning, anyone can check off all those items in St. Paul’s list and yet be the biggest unbeliever that ever walked the face of the earth.

The false prophet may, and most likely, do no evil better than you can, but he will refuse to be reconciled as is required by Jesus’ preaching here. He will refuse Christ and Him Crucified.

And “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up.” (Mt 15:13)

The seed the Father plants is Christ Crucified. He tosses out Jesus into the field of the corrupt world, Jesus falls into the ground, and dies. His death produces fruit 100 fold. The fruit that is produced from the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus is the salvation of the entire world.

And what does this salvation produce? Church-goers.
When a person has been converted by the Gospel and hears Jesus’ promises made to Him in His Church, that person searches, not for Jesus, but for His Church. This is because the Church of Christ is the only place on earth where God promises to be for you, and not against you, in Christ.

So now that we are in the one, true Church and we have found Jesus in the bread and wine, St. Paul tells us what else we find in this wonderful Savior: Love, joy, peace, etc. St. Paul does not contradict Jesus, but neither does St. Paul make a different way than through Jesus. For, unless you are a part of the only Good tree, you can do nothing.

Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:5)

The branch can not produce fruit by itself and the diseased tree only brings forth evil fruit. Without Jesus, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil gave out death. With Jesus, we now have the forgiveness of sins and access to the Tree of Life.

Not just “with Jesus” as some sort of tool. As if we bring out Jesus when He’s useful and set Him back on the shelf when we can do the rest. No, no. “With Jesus” means, quite literally, in Him. Just as branches that are grafted into the Good vine, so are you grafted into the Body of Christ. No longer separate.

It is no longer a matter of “what you can do on your own”, but a matter of what Jesus is doing, despite your sinful nature. In this way, you are with Jesus and you can do all the things that good fruit does. You will especially be brought past that scary bit about saying “Lord, lord” and not being let into the kingdom of the heavens.

So Jesus is the root, tree, and vine. He incorporates you into Himself by baptism and adorns His Church with you. Hanging you beside forgiveness, salvation, love, joy, peace, and patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, meekness, and self-control. All plentiful, all ripe, and already ready for the harvest.

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