Sunday, August 04, 2019

“Expecting Fruit” [Matt's Messages]

“Expecting Fruit”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
August 4, 2019 :: Matthew 21:18-46

We have reached what we called last time Jesus’ Crucial Week. Also called Passion Week or Holy Week. This is the week in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus has entered into Jerusalem on Sunday and will be crucified by Friday.

It’s the most Crucial Week of Jesus’ life and ministry.

Last time, we got through Sunday and Monday.

On Sunday, the crowds were shouting “Hosanna!” because the Son of David came riding into town on a donkey.

On Monday, the Son of David was tossing tables in the temple.

He was angrily protesting the profiteering going on in His Father’s house.

And then when the dust settled, he was healing the blind and the lame who came to Him for help in the temple and the children were still shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

In verse 17, it says that Jesus went out of the city to the village of Bethany where He spent the night.

So today’s stories apparently take place on Tuesday of Jesus’ Crucial Week.

Now, before we get into our text for today, I need to prepare you for something you’re probably going to notice and feel as we get further into this Crucial Week.

It’s almost a change that’s going come.

Jesus is going to start talking a lot about judgment.

It’s not the first time that He’s done that. We’ve seen it sprinkled here and there throughout the Gospel of Matthew.

This isn’t a different Jesus. But that side of Jesus is going to be much more prominent as Jesus teaches during His Crucial Week.

It’s not just that He is involved in controversy with the Jewish Religious Leaders.

But He has a message of coming judgment that sounds and feels and truly is heavy, weighty, serious, grave.

Obviously, Jesus just was wreaking havoc on the tables and benches of the moneychangers yesterday! There is more of that kind of judgment to come.

In fact, the story begins on Tuesday morning with Jesus cursing a fig tree.

I’ll read the first two verses. Matthew 21:18 and 29.

“Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, ‘May you never bear fruit again!’ Immediately the tree withered.”

Do you see what I mean?

This is a side to Jesus that we don’t always hear about or think about, but it’s Who He is.

First off, notice that Jesus was hungry.

That shows us how human Jesus was. Fully human.

And He wanted some breakfast from this fig tree (by the way, if you compare notes with the Gospel of Mark, you find out that this happened over two days, probably Monday and Tuesday of Jesus’ Crucial Week. Matthew puts all of the details together in his story and doesn’t chronology).

But Jesus wants some fruit from this fig tree, and it doesn’t have any fruit.

It doesn’t “give a fig.”

It looked like it was going to have fruit (at least the early fruit that doesn’t take good but can fill a hungry tummy). The leaves are there.

But it’s false advertising! It’s deceptive.

And what I understand from my study this week is that if it has leaves but no fruit at this time of the year then it will not have fruit for the rest of the year.

It’s just a hypocritical liar of a tree acting like it’s bearing fruit but actually doing no such thing.

Got it?

So instead of this being Jesus just throwing a fit because He’s “hangry” (insight from Pastor Kerry Doyal), I suspect that Jesus is making a point, using this tree as an illustration.

“May you never bear fruit again!” And the tree withers.

Now, that is harsh. We don’t usually see Jesus doing miracles of destruction!

Thankfully!

Thankfully, most of His miracles are miracles of restoration and health and peace and life.

But Jesus is capable of miracles of death and destruction, as well.

And when He does a miracle like that, it’s a picture of judgment.

Here’s our sermon title for today.

“Expecting Fruit.”

Jesus is expecting fruit, and when and where He does NOT find that expected fruit, there will be consequences.

I came up with some alternate titles for this message.

One was, “Where’s the Fruit?” But it was probably too 1980's for most people to get.

I had another on “Show Me the Fruit!” but that’s also probably dated by now as a cultural reference.

And neither of those titles reflect the gravity of what is going on here.

Jesus is expecting fruit, and when and where He does NOT find that expected fruit, there are serious consequences.

But before we get to the serious consequences, Jesus takes this story in an unexpected direction.

The fruit tree withers, and Jesus uses that, first off, as an illustration of the power of prayer. V.20

“When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. ‘How did the fig tree wither so quickly?’ they asked. Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.’”

I have three points of application this morning.

#1. PRAY IN FAITH.

Which would, of course, be exhibiting fruit!

If you pray in faith, that’s an example of the kind of fruit Jesus expects.

Now, I have a love/hate relationship with passages like this one.

I love that Jesus promises big answers to prayer.

I hate that I’m not always sure how literally to take them.

If you remember, Jesus said something similar back in chapter 17, and we decided that He didn’t mean that literally this mountain would up and get tossed into the sea.

Jesus never did a miracle like that, and the apostles never did either in the Book of Acts.

He’s probably using a figure of speech.

But that word “whatever” in verse 22 sure sounds like “anything.” Like a blank check.

But we know from the rest of the Bible that God doesn’t just do whatever we ask in our prayers. We have to pray according to His will.

And Paul gets told, “No.”
And Peter gets told, “No.”

And even Jesus got told, “No.” to some of His prayer requests.

So this isn’t a blank check. And it’s a magic lamp.

And God is not our genie in a bottle.

BUT!!!

This is a big promise!

Jesus is telling the disciples that they will do bigger things than pronounce judgment.

And Jesus is saying that His Father will be answering big prayer requests.

We need to not fall into the ditch of explaining away these unblushing promises.

We need to stay out of the ditch of presumption, but we also need to stay out of the ditch of unbelief.

And we need to pray in faith.

What are you praying for these days?

Are you praying for big things?

I don’t mean are you praying for a flashy new car or a cushy new job.

I mean are you praying for reconciliation with a personal enemy?

Are you praying for healing in our nation?

Are you praying for salvation for the lost?

That’s a miracle right there.

If you pray for a lost person and they get saved, that’s a bigger miracle than the fig tree withering on the spot.

I have a hymn posted above my desk that I look at every week. It’s by John Newton who also wrote “Amazing Grace.”

This one is called "Come, my soul, thy suit prepare" or Thou Art Coming to a King.”

Verse 2 says:

Thou art coming to a King,
large petitions with thee bring,
for his grace and pow'r are such,
none can ever ask too much.

So we pray in faith.

Believing in God’s reality, God’s power, God’s goodness, and God’s wisdom.

And whenever we bring these big prayer requests, we say like the Savior, “Not my will, but Your will be done.”

What are you praying for?

Let’s pray big!

I’m ashamed of all of the times when I’ve not trusted God’s reality, power, wisdom, and goodness enough to go big with my prayers.

“If you believe you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Now, the chief priest and elders are not happy with how this week is going.

They were really frustrated with Jesus yesterday when everybody was shouting praise at Him and when He was disrupting the commerce in the temple.

And here He is again today back at the temple and teaching without a license!

So they try to put a stop to it. V.23

“Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. ‘By what authority are you doing these things?’ they asked. ‘And who gave you this authority?’”

What is the question behind that question?

Keep your eye on the ball. Remember, this is the Gospel of Matthew.

Keep your eye on the ball. What is the ball?

“Who is Jesus?”

Their question in other words is, “Who do you think you are? Huh?!”

“Who do you think you are to come in here and do these things and say these things?”

“By what authority and who gave this authority?”

Now, that’s a good question, but they didn’t really want the answer.

They wanted Jesus to be embarrassed or trapped by the question.

But Jesus is neither embarrassed or trapped by the question! In fact, He turns it around and aims it right back at them. V.24

“Jesus replied, ‘I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. [Ready?] John's baptism–where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?’”

That’s a masterful reply, isn’t it?

Because it contains the answer, doesn’t it?

I mean He’s asking about John the Baptist. What did John the Baptist mean by His baptism?

What did John the Baptist preach when He was baptizing?

“Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is near.”

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance!” Remember that one?

And what did John the Baptist say about Jesus?

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:11-12).

And the next thing He does is baptize Jesus and all Heaven breaks loose!

“So, guys, John's baptism–where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?”

And so their team huddles up and decides how to answer that one.

But they don’t like either of the options. V.25

“They discussed it among themselves and said, ‘If we say, 'From heaven,' he will ask, 'Then why didn't you believe him?' But if we say, 'From men'–we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.’ [Don’t want to get into trouble with them. Fraidy cats.] So they answered Jesus, ‘We don't know.’ Then he said, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

Which is another masterful answer.

Because He has basically already told them, but He’s still in the driver’s seat.

So if we’re keeping track at home today, this is Jesus 1, the leaders 0.

“Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

But Jesus will tell them 3 parables that all answer the question from another direction.

Today, we’ll get through the first two parables. V.28

“‘What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.' ‘'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. ‘Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go. ‘Which of the two did what his father wanted?’”

Stop there for a second.

Jesus is back to storytelling. Parables are stories with a shove.

He’s got 3 shoves that He’s going to give these guys.

They all really pack a punch.

In this first story, the man with two sons is basically God with two kinds of putative disciples. Supposed disciples.

The first son is the shocking son.

Think about that in this culture.

“There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.' ‘'I will not,' he answered...”

That is shocking!

That is completely dishonoring and disrespecting.

That son is in trouble.

He’s like the prodigal son, isn’t he?

He has just insult his father.

But later he REPENTS. He has a change of mind and actually does go and do the work.

The second son looks good on paper, right?

He sounds great.

“He answered, 'I will, sir!”

You can count on me.
I’ll get right to that.
I’m your man.

But then he never shows up!

What’s he like?

He’s like that fig tree, right?

He’s got the leaves but not the figs.

He’s got the look but not the fruit.

And Jesus expects the fruit.

“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

Well, I’m sure he wanted to be told that he would do what he was asked to do.

Yes.

But which one actually did what the father asked? V.31

“‘The first,’ they answered. Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John [the Baptist we were just talking about] came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.”

#2. REPENT AND BELIEVE.

For real.

Not just for show.

The Pharisee and the Sadducees and the Chief Priests and the elders and the scribes all put on a good show.

They said that they were for real.

But there was no fruit.

They were all leaves and no figs.

But the prostitutes and the tax collectors and the meth heads and the child abusers.

They heard what John was saying and repented.

They turned around. They did the 180.

And they believed what John said about Jesus and they began to follow Him, and their lives were genuinely changed.

Church folk like you and me should be worried periodically.

We should be worried that we are “good” because we think we are “good.”

There is a real danger in “clean living.”

There is a real danger in being religious.

We have to ask ourselves on a regular basis if we are for real.

Paul says, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

And the test is, “Have I repented and believed?” Or “Am I repenting and believing?”

Am on the “way of righteousness” from verse 32?

That’s the same “way” as we saw in Psalm 1 and Psalm 92 the last two weeks.

Am I on that road?

Is there fruit...or only leaves?

Am I the first son or the second one?

Be the first son.

Repent and believe.

Sadly, the leaders were being the second son.

And Jesus says that they are in trouble because He is expecting fruit. V.33

“‘Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. [Not figs now but grapes.] He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. [You can see where this is going, especially if you know that the Old Testament likened Israel to a vineyard. V.34]

 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.
[He expects fruit. He it is rightful expectation for them to produce fruit for Him from this vineyard. So far, this story makes sense. But not it turns bizarre. V.35] The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. [What is going on?!!]

Last of all, he sent his son to them. 'They will respect my son,' he said. ‘But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and take his inheritance.' So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

‘Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’

‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,’ they replied, ‘and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.’”

They got into that story, didn’t they?

They got carried along and they didn’t even stop to think about who this story was about!

Who is this story about?

Roughly speaking (as most parables are only roughly speaking) the landowner is God the Father.

And the vineyard is the kingdom. And the fruit is the expected obedience that would come from faith in God.

Who are all of these fruit collectors, the servants?

They are probably the Old Testament prophets, right?

This is the story of the Old Testament.

And look how patient God is!

The listeners can’t believe how patient He is to keep sending these servants.

And then He sends His son!

And these murderous tenants get it into their foolish brains that if they kill the son, they can keep the produce for themselves.

(That’s not how it works.)

But they do it anyway.

The kill the son.

Says...the Son. Standing the temple on Tuesday of that Crucial Week.

All of a sudden, it doesn’t seem to harsh for the fig tree to wither.

Because it stands for the justice of God in rightfully expecting fruit and finding none.

“What will he do to those tenants?”

“‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,’ they replied, ‘and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.’” v.42

“Jesus said to them, [Uh huh.] ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? [Psalm 118? Have you never read that? Don’t you think that applies here?] ‘Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will [what?] produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.’ When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus' parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way [to fulfill this parable and] to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.”

It won’t last.

By the end of the week, this prophetic parable will be enacted.

And they will throw the Son out and kill Him.

Keep your eye on the ball.

Who is Jesus?

He is the Son in the parable.

He is also the stone.

The stone rejected by the builders but turns out to be capstone.

And the stone that though once rejected comes to reject them.

If you fall on this stone in unbelief, you will be broken to pieces.

And if this stone falls on you in judgment, you will be crushed.

Because the Lord Jesus expects fruit.

#3. BEAR FRUIT.

That means to submit Jesus’ authority and to live like He says to.

This is the answer to their question.

“By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?”

By God’s authority.
By My own authority!

The Father gave me this authority.

So you and I should submit.

Jesus is Lord.

Now, this is not to say that Jesus expect perfection out of us or we aren’t real.

He knows what we are.

He knows what we will continue to struggle with.

But He does require us to be real.

To trust Him and obey Him.

To repent and to believe.

And to change!

Jesus expects us to be different from the world and different from how we used to be.

And He doesn’t appreciate it when we ignore Him and His commands.

Especially when we claim to believe and follow Him and then don’t show up.

In what areas of your life do you need to bear fruit?

Remember, you can only bear fruit by faith, by being vitally connected to the vine.

You can’t bear fruit on your own.

With Jesus we can do nothing.

We need to abide in the Vine.

But we need to abide in the Vine and bear much fruit.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Is that you?

This is Jesus once more calling us to live out the Sermon on the Mount.

Upside-down and inside-out.

Not like the world.

And bearing fruit out our faith.

In what areas of your life do you need to bear fruit?

Jesus is expecting it.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith
48. These Little Ones
49. If Your Brother Sins Against You
50. The Lord of Marriage
51. Drop Everything
52. First and Last
53. The Suffering Serving Son of Man
54. Shouting for the Son of David

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