We are almost at the end of Jesus message to His disciples. He is preparing them for the work ahead. In our reading today He talks about the fruit they will bear.
We know from the accounts we already read that Jesus’ disciples experienced a LOT of success while out in the “mission field.” They came back in awe of all that His words had accomplished in their journey. The sick were healed, the lame walked, the blind recovered their sight, the deaf heard, the dumb spoke, demons were cast out, and the people received the word with gladness. Jesus is telling them today what it is that is going to allow that to happen.
The disciples’ heart is key in the process. Yes, God’s word is what provides the power for the miracles, but the heart condition of the one through which He works opens the door. I just received a picture of a screen sieve. There is oil being poured through this sieve into a waiting vessel. If the screen is dirty the oil flow is both slowed and tainted. What the vessel receives is contaminated. It is no longer the pure oil that was poured out. If the screen is clean the oil flows freely and cleanly into the vessel. I’m sure you recognize what, or rather who, the screen is.
The waiting vessel’s condition also impacts the quality of the oil. A dirty vessel contaminates the oil. If it is very dirty it renders the oil useless. It is not the oil’s failure but the vessel’s when the oil is soiled beyond use. A clean vessel allows the oil’s purity to be drawn out and spread to other vessels or put to other uses.
In Jesus’ example the disciples are not simple vessels but trees grown from the seeds He has planted. These trees are good because they have been tended with God’s pure word. They have not been polluted by the Pharisees doctrines. They have been inoculated against disease (unforgiveness, judgements, and hate) by feeding on pure love. These trees are going to bear exceptionally good fruit. Their fruit will be distinguishable from any other fruit out there because of the tree’s foundation. This is the fruit Jesus expects from His disciples.
Jesus brings His point home with His last words on this subject; “Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (verse 45). The disciples would be known not simply by the works that they do, but by the very words from their mouths. If they have been absorbing Jesus’ words deep into their hearts, those words would flow back out of them. If not, then what flowed out would reflect the absence of His presence in their lives. Either good things flow from a heart filled with God’s presence or bad things flow from a heart filled with evil.
I have a question that has been nagging me in the corner of my mind as I read Jesus’ words about the fruit He is predicting from His disciples. What about Judas Iscariot’s fruit? What kind of fruit did he produce when he first went out into the mission field? Was his heart always tainted or did he become greedy when seeing the abundance of blessings they received because of their giving? Did he always value the blessings over the Blesser or was it only in the end that he developed this issue? What kind of fruit resulted from his group? Who did Jesus pare him with when He sent them out? Did Jesus pare a stronger disciple with a weaker one when sending them out? This would make a lot of sense to me. I wonder who got Judas. Did Judas’ partner feel any responsibility for how Judas behaved in the end? I probably would have.
In all of our examples today the one either bearing the fruit or being the sieve needs to contribute their heart to the equation. They need to have a clean heart to produce the best products. I want to be that clean heart that God can work through. I’m sure you do to. BUT if you are anything like me, you know that there is more often than not, something in your heart that isn’t exactly clean. What do we do then? Are we useless to God because of it? I say no, we are not. Because, unlike regular oil, God’s oil, or God’s nutrients, have the power to affect not only the final receiver, but the conduit too. God’s oil cleans us as it flows through us. When we let His love flow through us to those around us we too receive His cleansing power. If we stop His flow and try and hoard all His blessings, His oil can’t clean us but actually rots like the manna in the wilderness did when the Israelites tried to gather more than they needed for the day. He expects us to pass on what He passes to us.
That “passing on” looks different for each of us. Some are directed to preach the gospel while others are directed to share simple acts of kindness. Whatever He calls you to do, KNOW that it makes a difference in His eternal plan. It also makes a difference in your life when you obey. No matter what He calls you to do, you can be certain the devil doesn’t want you to do it. But a blessing waits on the other side of obedience. Step up, step out, and step into the life He is calling you (and me) to.
Father God, please help me be the conduit that You can use. Help me listen and step up to the plate when You call me. Remind me that I am stepping out in Your power and not my own to do whatever work You are calling me into. Clean my heart as Your words flow through me into the hearts You have prepared to receive them. Let me not taint Your pure oil as it passes through my hands. Thank You that I am not the one ultimately responsible for the work You are accomplishing. That task is in Your hands.
Please forgive me for the times I try and take credit for Your work or get in the way of what You are doing. Keep cleaning my heart Lord because it seems to get clogged up with frustration pretty quickly. Forgive me for that too Lord. I have noticed that when Your oil is actually flowing on a daily basis, frustration seems to stick less in my heart. Help me find time every day to let Your oil through, even if I don’t get to actually have time to write. Help me carve out time to write too. Order my priorities and wash away my procrastination.