Saturday, February 11, 2006

That your joy may be full... and bearing fruit

So I've been thinking about this idea and the other day found this phrase used by Jesus in three places in the New Testament -- in John 15-16-17 -- which all took place during/after the Last Supper. In John 15, Jesus talks about remaining in him, bearing fruit, love and joy.
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.
What would the disciples have thought when they heard this? Today, "fruit" might bring to mind Paul's list -- love, joy, peace, patience, etc. But Paul hadn't even started persecuting the church when Jesus was having this discussion. Would they have remembered the warning that "every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire"? Perhaps. Probably they would have remembered that "every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit." But here Jesus doesn't seem to be talking about good fruit vs bad fruit; he seems to be talking about bearing fruit vs no fruit.

Here's something else the disciples would have remembered: He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, and whose leaf does not wither, from Psalm 1. And of course there was the fruitless fig tree which Jesus encountered on the way to Jerusalem.

So here's what I think "fruit" meant to the disciples here: Results. What kind of results? Meaningful results, eternal results. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to
be my disciples. (15.8). You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. (15.16) I think what he means is that unless I stay connected to Jesus, my life will have no lasting results.

Peter apparently remembered this discussion, as he later wrote "But if these [qualities] are yours and increasing, they will render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1.8, NAS, approximately)

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