Bearing Fruit: Following Jesus Step By Step

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Luke 13:1–17 (CSB)
1 At that time, some people came and reported to him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 And he responded to them, “Do you think that these Galileans were more sinful than all the other Galileans because they suffered these things? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well. 4 Or those eighteen that the tower in Siloam fell on and killed—do you think they were more sinful than all the other people who live in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well.”
6 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree that was planted in his vineyard. He came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 He told the vineyard worker, ‘Listen, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it even waste the soil?’
8 “But he replied to him, ‘Sir, leave it this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 Perhaps it will produce fruit next year, but if not, you can cut it down.’ ”
10 As he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath, 11 a woman was there who had been disabled by a spirit for over eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called out to her, “Woman, you are free of your disability.” 13 Then he laid his hands on her, and instantly she was restored and began to glorify God.
14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, responded by telling the crowd, “There are six days when work should be done; therefore come on those days and be healed and not on the Sabbath day.”
15 But the Lord answered him and said, “Hypocrites! Doesn’t each one of you untie his ox or donkey from the feeding trough on the Sabbath and lead it to water? 16 Satan has bound this woman, a daughter of Abraham, for eighteen years—shouldn’t she be untied from this bondage on the Sabbath day?”
17 When he had said these things, all his adversaries were humiliated, but the whole crowd was rejoicing over all the glorious things he was doing.

The Text In Its Context

Repent Today

Last week we heard that we need to repent, do it right away, and examine ourselves regularly for remaining unrepentant sin. The urgency comes from the truth that we don’t know how much time we have before we meet Jesus, and we will be judged when we do.
Judgment will be sudden and unexpected. So repent today to be prepared to meet Jesus.
In today’s text, some people came to Jesus and told him about
Luke 13:1 (CSB) 1 At that time, some people came and reported to him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.
The details of this conflict are lost to history. Still, we don’t need specifics to understand that Jesus had been talking about interpreting the times, and these people wondered if Pilate’s actions had some special significance. The Jewish hope for a messiah looked to a political and military leader, and maybe the people hoped that the act would enrage Jesus and begin the revolution. Or did these people die because of their sin?
It is human nature to ask why. If we understand why something happens, we can believe that we can have control over the outcomes. They thought Jesus might be the promised Messiah, and he had not reacted to Pilate. Was it because God had judged them sinful and used Pilate to deliver divine retribution?
Luke 13:2–5 (CSB) 2 And he responded to them, “Do you think that these Galileans were more sinful than all the other Galileans because they suffered these things? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well. 4 Or those eighteen that the tower in Siloam fell on and killed—do you think they were more sinful than all the other people who live in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well.”
Jesus’ response must have made their heads and hearts spin. He focused on the urgent need for everybody to repent and get right with God. What the Galileans suffered wasn’t due to the gravity of their sins.
Death, illness, and financial or material setbacks can be linked to God’s judgment for our sin. But it isn’t always the case, even though many people seem to assume they are—Jesus’ words in our text stand against that assumption.
John 9:2–3 (CSB) 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” Jesus answered. “This came about so that God’s works might be displayed in him.
God controls all things, either actively causing something to happen or passively allowing it. We all sin and fall short of God’s glory. God uses all things for the benefit of those who believe. Human tragedies are not always divine punishments, and it is wrong for us to “play God” and pass judgment. Job’s friends made this mistake when they said that Job’s afflictions were evidence that he was a sinner. If we take that approach to tragedy, we will have a hard time explaining the sufferings of the Prophets and Apostles and even of our Lord and Savior Himself.
Warren Wiersbe uses John Milton's conversation with King Charles II to illustrate this truth.
When the blind English poet John Milton was old and obscure, he was visited one day by Charles II, son of the king that the Puritans had beheaded. “Your blindness is a judgment from God for the part you took against my father,” said the king. Milton replied, “If I have lost my sight through God’s judgment, what can you say of your father who lost his head?”
Don’t try and create a hierarchy of sin, don’t try and make people who suffer into greater sinners than yourself. You deserve death for your sin. We all deserve that judgment. The vital response must always be repentance! Jesus said that sin of any sort is deadly- all sin causes death- spiritually if not physically.
Every minute that God allows us to breath while we sin is an illustration of

God’s Patience,

but He won’t wait forever!
Luke 13:6–7 (CSB) 6 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree that was planted in his vineyard. He came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 He told the vineyard worker, ‘Listen, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it even waste the soil?’
Our text includes a parable with application to individuals, the nation of Israel, and the Church. We must bear fruit for God.
The length of time that the owner waited for the fig tree to bear fruit was excessive. According to Leviticus 19:23–25 the Jewish people did not eat fruit from newly planted trees the first three years, and the fourth year the crops belonged to the Lord. A farmer would not get any figs for himself until the fifth year, but this man had now been waiting for seven years! No wonder he wanted to cut down the fruitless tree! He had shown exceptional patience already.
God has every right to cut us down, but He gives us time to come to repentance in His mercy.
2 Peter 3:9 (CSB) 9 The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.
Don’t question that God is going to judge sin. His patience and mercy are not weaknesses. Every man, woman, and child earns the wages of sin. Don’t spend too much time wondering when He is coming back for us. Every day is a gift, either for us to draw closer to Him or share the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with another. He is coming soon, be prepared. Repent and make straight the way for the Lord.
Luke 13:8–9 (CSB) 8 “But he replied to him, ‘Sir, leave it this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 Perhaps it will produce fruit next year, but if not, you can cut it down.’ ”
In the OT, the nation of Israel would swing from faithful to rebellious. God sent many prophets to warn them of coming judgment. Then God sent His son Jesus Christ. God waited three years during Jesus’ ministry on earth. The nation did not bear fruit. God waited about forty more years before allowing the Roman armies to destroy Jerusalem and the temple. During those years, the Church of Christ gave Israel a powerful message of the Gospel. But the nation didn’t listen, and finally, God cut down the tree.
Every person, the nation of Israel, and Jesus’ church are to be judged by the fruit they bear. Therefore, make every effort you can to bear fruit. Use every resource God has given you to do so. The first step is always to repent and make straight the way for the Lord.

Bear Good Fruit, Not Just Fruit That Looks Good

Luke 13:10–13 (CSB) 10 As he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath, 11 a woman was there who had been disabled by a spirit for over eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called out to her, “Woman, you are free of your disability.” 13 Then he laid his hands on her, and instantly she was restored and began to glorify God.
Jesus gave us an example of good fruit. Fruit that brings glory to God and brings people to glorify God.
Luke 13:14 (CSB) 14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, responded by telling the crowd, “There are six days when work should be done; therefore come on those days and be healed and not on the Sabbath day.”
Tyndale Bible Dictionary (Sabbath) Derivation of a Hebrew word that means “cease” or “desist.” The Sabbath was a day (from Friday evening until Saturday evening in Jesus’ time) when all ordinary work stopped. The Scriptures relate that God gave his people the Sabbath as an opportunity to serve him and as a reminder of two great truths in the Bible—Creation and redemption.
This poor lady had been bearing her pain for 18 years. 18 years! She gave the glory to God for the healing. Yet the leader of the synagogue was upset! He equated healing with working! And the Sabbath was set aside for rest. In the Old Testament, the Sabbath began as a holy day for God, including resting from daily work. The Pharisees created many rules, such as how far you could walk on a sabbath and avoid working. The details the Pharisees put in place came to be observed legalistically.
Interestingly, the leader didn’t berate Jesus- maybe he was afraid of the power and authority Jesus displayed. Instead, he addressed the crowd and told them there were six days when they could come back and ask for Jesus to heal them! Go ahead and heal her on the other six days, please, and thank you! Don’t you dare do it on the Sabbath!
Luke 13:15–16 (CSB) 15 But the Lord answered him and said, “Hypocrites! Doesn’t each one of you untie his ox or donkey from the feeding trough on the Sabbath and lead it to water? 16 Satan has bound this woman, a daughter of Abraham, for eighteen years—shouldn’t she be untied from this bondage on the Sabbath day?”
Hypocrisy is the characteristic of acting inconsistently with one's character, belief system, or speech. For the failure to understand the healing was permissible on the Sabbath to be hypocrisy, they needed to pretend not to understand and act like they didn’t know better.
Jesus called the leader out for his failure. He was hypocritical. He took care of his farm animals on the Sabbath, ensuring they had food and water. But he was offended at this woman being healed of an affliction visited upon her by Satan for 18 years? Jesus was arguing from the lesser to the greater. If God wanted us to care for our animals on the Sabbath, would God not also want us to care for His people on the Sabbath? People who are made in God’s image. Let alone the fact that this woman attended the Sabbath worship after 18 years of suffering. Jesus called her a daughter of Abraham. He was referring to her spiritual condition, not her nationality. Any tradition that keeps us from helping others is not from God. Such a tradition is an excuse for not living the way God commands.
Do you think that maybe this leader didn’t understand the signs of the time? I pray he repented- because based on the facts of the interaction, it appears that he stood condemned.
Look at this example of fruit! Beautiful eh? Whoever brings a fellowship offering like that is doing well! We all know that a good fruit plate goes quickly. AMEN?
I don’t believe anybody here would like to eat this particular fruit. But, the plate is real, and so is the fruit. In that, it physically exists, and you can hold it. But it is a wax replica of the fruit that God made. So, put it on your counter or your table, and it will look good forever. All you need to do to maintain those looks is occasionally dust! And maybe keep it out of direct sunlight- you don’t want those good-looking fruits to melt.
God created physical fruit to provide food for the body. The purpose of spiritual fruit is to grow us closer to Jesus, build up Jesus’ church, and reach the world with the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Having the appearance of fruit without having the life-transforming characteristics of good fruit is meaningless. You might look good to the casual observer, but you are not pleasing to God. Just as the wax fruit when exposed to heat, your false fruit will melt when exposed to God’s judgment.
Repent and make straight the way for the Lord. Be

Revitalized By The Spirit: Contemporary Application

Does this message seem harsh to you? I understand why it might seem unpleasant. Especially after hearing Jesus tell us to repent last week as well. But it is a message we may need to hear repeatedly before we act on it. AMEN? Yet Jesus is sharing God’s mercy and grace in preaching it.
God is more patient than we have the right to expect. God is undoubtedly more patient as a father than I was with my kids. Seeing the sudden death and judgment of the Galileans and the people at the collapsed tower should give us the urgency to act that our situation demands. Every person on earth deserves a death sentence for our sin. However, the fact that we continue to wake up day after day means that God is being extraordinarily patient and merciful with us.
Time is short, and the stakes are high. We are talking about eternity here. God will send circumstances and people to dig around your roots and fertilize you. Don’t resist. Be moved by the Spirit and be revitalized. We are like the fig tree after the owner’s visit. The standard of God’s holiness and justice finds our lives' fruit lacking. The only question is- will knowing that truth cause us to act. Will we repent?
Significantly, the parable was “open-ended,” Jesus never said whether or not the owner cut down that fig tree. The listeners had to supply the conclusion. Did the tree bear fruit? Did the special care accomplish anything? Was the tree spared or cut down? We have no way to know the answers to these questions, but we can answer as far as our own lives are concerned! Again, the question is not “What happened to the tree?” but “What will happen to me?”God is seeking fruit. He will accept no substitutes, and the time to repent is NOW. The next time you hear about a tragedy that claims many lives, ask yourself, “Am I just taking up space, or am I bearing fruit to God’s glory?”

Points To Ponder

“A fruitless tree” by Michael Bentley

This parable is about a fig-tree planted in a vineyard (cf. Isa. 5). Jesus was pointing out, through this parable, that God’s people must not only repent; they must also produce good fruit by living their lives for God’s glory. The fig-tree is a picture of the nation of Israel and, perhaps, particularly of the religious leaders of the nation.1
The owner of the vineyard had this particular fig-tree planted in his vineyard because the soil was fertile and he expected a good crop of fruit from it. That was the only function of the fig-tree; it had to justify its existence. If it was going to take up space and draw nourishment from the ground and the air, then it would have to show it was worth having. The harvest it produced must be good and regular.
The tree would have been three years old before it could hope to give a harvest. Then, according to Leviticus 19:23–25, the fourth year’s crop must be given to the Lord. Therefore it was not until the fifth year that the owner could expect to enjoy the fruit of the tree for himself. But, in the case of this tree the owner went to look for fruit on it, but he found none (13:6). Jesus was saying that God has a right to expect a return from the people of God, and especially from those who are religious leaders.
Because of the lack of fruit on the tree the owner of the vineyard said to the man who took care of it, ‘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?’ (13:7). The owner had a right to say, ‘Cut it down.’ He had given it a good chance, but, to his mind, the tree was obviously useless. In fact the sense of the owner’s words is, ‘Dig it up so that there is no possibility of it beginning to grow again.’2
God had the right to pass judgement on the unfaithful and unfruitful rulers of Israel, and likewise he has the right to pass judgement upon us as well. He has planted us (individually) in his vineyard (the church) with the purpose that we can produce a harvest for his glory. If he keeps coming to us and finds that we are unfruitful, then he has the right and the power to say, ‘Cut him down, why should he use up space?’
Jesus then tells us of the gracious mercy of the Lord. The vinedresser in the story (who is evidently a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ) says, ‘Sir, leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig round it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down’ (13:8–9). How gracious is our God! He knows that we are failures, but he gives us a little more time to prove ourselves. God has the authority and the power to destroy us, yet he is so kind and gracious. Peter tells us that ‘[God] is patient with [us], not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9).
In verse 3 of our chapter the Lord said, ‘Unless you repent, you too will all perish.’ In verse 5 he says it again: ‘Unless you repent, you too will all perish.’ And then, in case anyone is saying, ‘Oh, there’s plenty of time to think about repentance later on!’ he says, ‘If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down’ (13:9). What does he mean by ‘next year’? He means ‘any time, or soon’. The message is that we must all repent now, and go on repenting every day of our lives. We can never produce anything useful to God unless we are living holy lives and seeking to please him in everything we do, and say and think.
[Michael Bentley, Saving a Fallen World: Luke Simply Explained, Welwyn Commentary Series (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 1992), 197–199.]

“The Call To Compassion” by Darrell L. Bock

THE MAJOR ISSUE in this text is not the debate over Sabbath activity, but what stands behind it. Sabbath practice was not a highlighted issue in the early church (Rom. 14:5), since different believers did different things on the Sabbath; but the call to have compassion was important.4 The text emphasizes that it is appropriate to be compassionate all the time, and it is Jesus’ compassion that causes the crowds to rejoice. The synagogue leader, however, is so bound up on his rules that he cannot rejoice in the blessing of deliverance that has taken place.
Another timeless issue is the debate about Jesus’ authority bound up in this event. If Jesus has the authority to heal and God endorses that authority on the Sabbath by giving him power to effect this healing, then what does that say about Jesus? In the Jewish view, God would not endorse a violation of his Sabbath law, so where does the power come from to reverse the condition of the woman that Satan is responsible for? That source cannot be Satan, since he is responsible for the woman’s condition; thus, the healing must be divine (11:14–23). God is at work through Jesus, so the entire event reinforces the authority of Jesus, furthering the claim Luke makes for his right to call for a response to Jesus.
We also see illustrated in the passage the depth of hardheartedness. Jesus has repeatedly warned the Jewish leadership and his generation about the risk of rejecting him. He continues to reinforce his claim, but many keep on challenging what he does. They even stretch the “nonlabor law” on the Sabbath to try to discredit him. But in the healing God casts a vote for the challenged teacher. The healing shows whose side God is on. The issue of choosing Jesus in light of who he is and what he does is of paramount importance in any era.
A worldview issue also surfaces here. Westerners tend not to consider the possibility that some conditions are not just physical, but carry a hostile spiritual dimension. We treat sickness as merely that. We tend to treat violence in people as merely that. Though hard to ascertain, the possibility of spiritual dimensions in certain situations should make us more sensitive to prayer for these conditions, so that spiritual resources can be brought to bear (James 5:14–15).
I will never forget talking with one of my students who worked in the state penitentiary for years. He reported account after account of inmates who engaged in demonic activity. Even the unbelievers among the guards sensed that something paranormal was involved in the attitude of those inmates. One prisoner, for example, nicknamed “the meanest man in Texas,” could bounce back immediately from the harshest of blows with a night stick and keep attacking others. Others even wore tattoos proclaiming their allegiance to the devil. These examples may be more extreme than this woman’s illness, but they show how real these forces can be in the lives of people. So we should access divine aid, especially when we are not certain of the source of such conditions.
When it comes to the demonic, no one has spoken more eloquently that C. S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters.5 The whole book is worth reading and reflecting on, especially in an era that has seen an increase in interest in Satan. Here are a few key citations:
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.
[Screwtape to his devil assistant]: It is funny how mortals always picture us [devils] as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work in done by keeping things out.
[Screwtape to his devil assistant]: Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves.
What Lewis understands so well and pictures so powerfully is that the devil either wants us to be consumed with his presence and power or else conclude he is not there at all. A healing like this tells us to be aware but not afraid, for God is more powerful than anything such hostile forces can throw at us.
[Darrell L. Bock, Luke, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996), 374–376.]

Questions Needing Answers

“Why would God allow suffering?” How could you use these verses as part of an answer to that question?
“Why hasn’t Jesus returned yet?” How could you use these verses as part of an answer to that question?
How will these verses help you next time you are watching the news and it features a report about death or the COVID pandemic?
What does it mean to be lost? Are you lost? How do you know?
Have you repented of your sins? Do you know Jesus has saved you?
In what ways is Middletown Baptist Church in danger of loving rites and rules more than people?
In what ways do people today show the same self-righteous attitude of the Pharisees? What is the result?
What evidence do you have that the kingdom is growing?

A Week’s Worth of Scripture

Monday John 9:2–3 (CSB) 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” Jesus answered. “This came about so that God’s works might be displayed in him.
Tuesday Leviticus 19:23–25 (CSB) 23 “When you come into the land and plant any kind of tree for food, you are to consider the fruit forbidden. It will be forbidden to you for three years; it is not to be eaten. 24 In the fourth year all its fruit is to be consecrated as a praise offering to the Lord. 25 But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit. In this way its yield will increase for you; I am the Lord your God.
Wednesday Galatians 5:16–18 (CSB) 16 I say, then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Thursday Romans 11:17–24 (CSB) 17 Now if some of the branches were broken off, and you, though a wild olive branch, were grafted in among them and have come to share in the rich root of the cultivated olive tree, 18 do not boast that you are better than those branches. But if you do boast—you do not sustain the root, but the root sustains you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 True enough; they were broken off because of unbelief, but you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but beware, 21 because if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. 22 Therefore, consider God’s kindness and severity: severity toward those who have fallen but God’s kindness toward you—if you remain in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they, if they do not remain in unbelief, will be grafted in, because God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut off from your native wild olive tree and against nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these—the natural branches—be grafted into their own olive tree?
Friday 2 Peter 3:9 (CSB) 9 The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.
Saturday Isaiah 5:1–7 (CSB) 1 I will sing about the one I love, a song about my loved one’s vineyard: The one I love had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2 He broke up the soil, cleared it of stones, and planted it with the finest vines. He built a tower in the middle of it and even dug out a winepress there. He expected it to yield good grapes, but it yielded worthless grapes. 3 So now, residents of Jerusalem and men of Judah, please judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more could I have done for my vineyard than I did? Why, when I expected a yield of good grapes, did it yield worthless grapes? 5 Now I will tell you what I am about to do to my vineyard: I will remove its hedge, and it will be consumed; I will tear down its wall, and it will be trampled. 6 I will make it a wasteland. It will not be pruned or weeded; thorns and briers will grow up. I will also give orders to the clouds that rain should not fall on it. 7 For the vineyard of the Lord of Armies is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah, the plant he delighted in. He expected justice but saw injustice; he expected righteousness but heard cries of despair.
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