Sermon title:  WE GLORIFY GOD WHEN WE BEAR FRUIT

Luke 13:1-17Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, February 24, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t imagine interrupting our Lord Jesus

when he’s preaching to a public audience.

 

Personally, I wouldn’t even think of doing that.

 

But that’s what some of his listeners kept doing.

 

As we just read in Luke, Chapter 13,

some in his audience interrupted him

to get his reaction

to a horrific news report.

 

It was ‘breaking news’ of a terrible thing

that just happened there in Jerusalem.

 

Maybe they thought Jesus hadn’t heard about it yet.

 

Or, maybe they just wanted to get his reaction.

 

In any case, it’s in Luke 13:1, and it says,

 

1 Now there were some present at that time

who told Jesus about the Galileans

whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.

 

We don’t know any more about this incident

that they reported to him.

 

Pontius Pilate evidently killed certain Jews from Galilee

who had come to Jerusalem to sacrifice at the Temple.

 

We don’t know why,

or what the circumstances were.

 

It’s not mentioned in any of the secular histories

that have survived for us to read today.

 

But, it seems that those who reported it to Jesus

may have been of the belief

that such bad things happened only to bad people.

 

Jesus refuted that false belief in the next verse.

 

2 Jesus answered, "Do you think

that these Galileans were worse sinners

than all the other Galileans

because they suffered this way?

 

3 I tell you, no!

But unless you repent,

you too will all perish.

 

So, if the listeners who reported this to Jesus

meant to establish themselves

as being better than the victims of Pilate’s violence,

Jesus set them straight.

 

They were all sinners,

and they were all due to perish

if they didn’t repent of their sins.

 

And, just in case their feelings on the matter

were colored by the prejudice of the Jerusalem Jews

against the Jews from Galilee,

Jesus brought up another, different fatal disaster

that befell certain Jews

living right there in Jerusalem.

 

In the next verse, he said,

 

4 Or those eighteen who died

when the tower in Siloam fell on them—

do you think they were more guilty

than all the others living in Jerusalem?

 

5 I tell you, no!

But unless you repent,

you too will all perish."

 

Siloam was the East Jerusalem neighborhood

where the Pool of Siloam was located—

the pool where Jesus

told a man born blind go wash,

and he came back seeing.

 

That section of East Jerusalem

is called Silwan in Arabic,

and the neighborhood today is inhabited

mostly by Arabs, plus about 40 Jewish families.

 

We don’t know much about the tower

that had been there until Jesus’ day

and that collapsed killing 18 people.

 

All that we know about it

is this mention, here in the New Testament.

 

But, it seems that Jesus mentioned it

to point out that the people living in Jerusalem

needed to repent of their sins,

just as much as the people from Galilee.

 

And that included the people in Jesus’ audience

who brought that first news report

to his attention.

 

They were all sinners who needed to repent.

 

In fact, repentance was overdue

for the whole nation of the Jews.

 

And Jesus went on to tell them an illustrative story

to make that very point.

 

6 Then he told this parable:

 

"A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard,

and he went to look for fruit on it,

but did not find any.

 

7 So he said to the man

who took care of the vineyard,

 

'For three years now I've been coming

to look for fruit on this fig tree

and haven't found any.

 

Cut it down!

Why should it use up the soil?'

 

8 "'Sir,' the man replied,

'leave it alone for one more year,

and I'll dig around it and fertilize it.

 

9 If it bears fruit next year, fine!

If not, then cut it down.'"

 

Sometimes, after Jesus spoke a parable,

we read that his disciples came to him privately,

and asked him to explain the lesson of the parable to them.

 

But, apparently, that didn’t happen this time.

 

Or, if it did, Luke doesn’t tell us about it.

 

So, we need to figure out for ourselves

what the story in the parable represented.

 

The context,

along with comparison with other parables

that Jesus did explain,

leads commentators to agree pretty much unanimously,

that Jesus had the nation of Israel in mind.

 

The nation was like a tree that failed to produce any fruit.

 

God had planted the nation of Israel in the Promised Land,

and he had given them laws

aimed at producing righteous behavior.

 

But, every time he looked at them,

all he found was unrighteousness, corruption and sin.

 

The land owner said,

 

'For three years now I've been coming

to look for fruit on this fig tree

and haven't found any.

 

That may have referred to God’s observation of the nation

over the centuries.

 

Or, it may have referred to

the first 3 years of Jesus’ ministry on earth.

 

He kept calling the people to repent,

but the nation as a whole

failed to produce the fruits of repentance.

 

In any case,

when the owner said,

Cut it down!

Why should it use up the soil?'

 

...and the vineyard worker replied,

 

8 "'Sir, leave it alone for one more year,

and I'll dig around it and fertilize it.

 

9 If it bears fruit next year, fine!

If not, then cut it down.'"

--that intercession

to give it another chance—

that intercession seems to represent Jesus’ intercession

for the Jewish people.

 

For centuries, God had sent them prophets,

and they killed the prophets

and ignored their calls to repent.

 

Finally, God sent his Son

in a last-ditch effort to call them to repent.

 

The three years may even represent

the time Jesus had already spent in ministry.

 

And then Christ’s final year among them

may be what is alluded to

when the worker says,

leave it alone for one more year,

and I'll dig around it and fertilize it.

 

9 If it bears fruit next year, fine!

If not, then cut it down.'"

 

We know, of course,

that the nation failed to bear the fruit of repentance

--even after Jesus spent a final year among them,

preaching and performing miracles.

 

That extra ‘digging and fertilizing’

was for naught, as far as the Jewish nation was concerned.

 

And so, the order did go out to ‘cut down’

the unfruitful fig tree.

 

The armies of the Roman Empire came in

and destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple,

killing a million Jews,

and carrying the rest off captive.

------------------------------

 

The lesson of the parable is clear,

as it applied to the ancient nation of Israel.

 

But, is there a lesson in it for us, too,

as Christian believers?

 

Apparently there is,

because Jesus later gave a similar illustration

about those who are in Christ

bearing fruit to God’s glory

or not bearing fruit, at all.

 

It’s found in the Gospel of John, Chapter 15.

 

Jesus gave this illustration in his final message to his disciples

at the very end of his ministry on earth.

 

He compares himself to a vine growing in a vineyard,

and his disciples are branches of that vine.

 

As we read John 15, beginning with John 15:1,

notice what our Lord says

about being fruitful as Christians.

 

1 "I am the true vine,

and my Father is the gardener.

 

2 He cuts off every branch in me

that bears no fruit,

while every branch that does bear fruit

he prunes

so that it will be even more fruitful.

 

3 You are already clean

because of the word I have spoken to you.

 

Now, that word “clean”

is actually translated from the same Greek root

as “prunes” in the previous verse. 

 

So, some translations read,

You have already been pruned...”

 

By listening to Jesus’ words

we are pruned and cleaned

so that we can bear fruit.

 

And it’s by listening to Jesus words

that we can remain in him.

 

We hear his teachings

and live by them,

and we remain in his teachings.

 

In the next verse, John 15:4, our Lord says,

 

4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you.

 

No branch can bear fruit by itself;

it must remain in the vine.

 

Neither can you bear fruit

unless you remain in me.

 

5 "I am the vine; you are the branches.

 

If a man remains in me and I in him,

he will bear much fruit;

 

apart from me you can do nothing.

 

6 If anyone does not remain in me,

he is like a branch

that is thrown away and withers;

such branches are picked up,

thrown into the fire and burned.

 

7 If you remain in me

and my words remain in you,

ask whatever you wish,

and it will be given you.

 

8 This is to my Father's glory,

that you bear much fruit,

showing yourselves to be my disciples.

 

So, it brings glory to God

when we bear fruit as Christians.

 

And it’s the fruit we bear

that shows us to be Jesus’ disciples.

 

We can’t do it on our own.

 

We must remain in him,

and his words must remain in us,

in order for us to be fruitful.

 

To help us be fruitful,

the Lord keeps working on us,

like the vinedresser in the vineyard:

 

8 "'Sir,' the man replied,

'leave it alone for one more year,

and I'll dig around it and fertilize it.

9 If it bears fruit next year, fine!

If not, then cut it down.'"

 

Our heavenly Father

keeps working on us,

cleaning or pruning us by the Word of Christ,

so that we will be more fruitful.

 

Jesus began John 15 by saying,

 

1 "I am the true vine,

and my Father is the gardener.

 

2 He cuts off every branch in me

that bears no fruit,

while every branch that does bear fruit

he prunes

so that it will be even more fruitful.

 

We can cooperate with our own pruning

by listening to Jesus’ words

from the Bible.

 

He told his original disciples,

 

3 You are already clean

because of the word I have spoken to you.

 

They were already pruned.

 

God’s Word cleans us up

and prunes away from us

the sins that would drag us down

and make us unfruitful.

 

And there is a reward for being cleaned, pruned and fruitful.

 

Jesus said,

 

7 If you remain in me

and my words remain in you,

ask whatever you wish,

and it will be given you.

 

--------------------

 

But that wasn’t the case

with the nation of Israel,

even when Jesus put in extra work on that ‘fig tree,’

digging around it

and fertilizing it for another year.

 

Individual Jews accepted Jesus as the Messiah,

and they formed the nucleus

of the new Christian Church

that was about to be born.

 

But the leadership rejected Jesus.

 

As we see when we continue our Responsive Reading

from Luke Chapter 13, in Verse 10,

the leadership closed their ears to Jesus’ words

and rejected his miracles.

 

10 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching

in one of the synagogues,

11 and a woman was there

who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years.

 

She was bent over

and could not straighten up at all.

 

12 When Jesus saw her,

he called her forward and said to her,

"Woman, you are set free from your infirmity."

 

13 Then he put his hands on her,

and immediately she straightened up

and praised God.

 

She praised God for her miraculous healing,

and so did everyone else

whose heart was right toward God.

 

But not the leadership!

 

The next verse says,

 

14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath,

the synagogue ruler said to the people,

 

"There are six days for work.

So come and be healed on those days,

not on the Sabbath."

 

He didn’t dare rebuke Jesus,

but he rebuked the congregation in the synagogue.

 

Jesus immediately pointed out the leadership’s hypocrisy.

 

15 The Lord answered him, "You hypocrites!

 

Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath

untie his ox or donkey from the stall

and lead it out to give it water?

 

16 Then should not this woman,

a daughter of Abraham,

whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years,

be set free on the Sabbath day

from what bound her?"

 

17 When he said this,

all his opponents were humiliated,

 

but the people were delighted

with all the wonderful things he was doing.

 

It was just like that

for the rest of the time Jesus spent on earth

cultivating and fertilizing

that unfruitful ‘fig tree’ of the Jewish nation.

 

How long would you keep cultivating in your yard

a fruit tree that never bore any fruit? 

 

God cultivated the nation of Israel

for more than a thousand years,

but it kept disappointing him

with its idolatry and immorality and corruption. 

 

Finally, he sent Jesus

in a last-ditch effort

to call them to repent. 

 

They refused, and so the ‘fig tree,’

the nation of Israel,

was ‘cut down.’ 

 

The Romans destroyed Jerusalem

and scattered the Jewish people all over the earth

without a nation of their own.

 

It’s a lesson from history

that helps us understand the world we live in today.

 

For almost 2,000 years there was no Jewish nation,

until 1948 when a modern-day miracle occurred,

and the modern nation of Israel was born

in fulfillment of Bible prophecy.

 

But the parable of the unfruitful fig tree

also helps us in our personal walk

as believers in Christ.

 

As Christians, we can bear fruit,

because we are in Christ. 

 

Jesus said,

“I am the vine;

you are the branches.

 

If a man remains in me

and I in him,

he will bear much fruit.” (John 15:5)

 

And Jesus explained to his disciples,

“You are already clean

or “you have already been pruned

“because of the word I have spoken to you.”

 

Listening obediently to Jesus’ words

prunes or cleans us

from the things that would drag us down

and make us unfruitful.

 

As fruitful Christians,

we bring glory to God.

 

And we also bring blessings to ourselves,

because Jesus said,

 

7 If you remain in me

and my words remain in you,

ask whatever you wish,

and it will be given you.