Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How Much Fruit?

One of Jesus' parables that is particularly well-known (and well-discussed) is the parable of the sower. Although it's found in all three synoptic gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), the version that came up in today's Daily Office is the one from Mark (Mk. 4:1-20). I think one of the reasons it's so familiar is that Jesus takes the time to explain this one.

He said, "The sower sows the word," and then he goes on to describe what each kind of recipient is. Those symbolized by the path are those from whom Satan snatches the word right away before it takes root. Those  with rocky soil are the ones with no depth of faith. Those amidst the thorns are the ones who can't get past the cares of this world. Finally, the ones on fertile ground "hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold."

But did you see what Jesus just did? He explained the parable--what each little bit meant--but he still talked about "bearing fruit" and also kept the specific quantity of fruit "30x, 60x, and 100x." Did he forget to explain that bit? What does it really mean to bear fruit like that?

I wouldn't know. Why? Because I'm so worried about whether I'm one of the other three types of hearers (path, rocks, thorns) that I don't even make it to bearing much fruit. I get stuck with everything that might be wrong with me. I get stuck with fear. I'm afraid that Jesus is singling me out for criticism. I'm afraid that I don't have depth of faith or that I'm letting the cares of the world (Jesus calls them "riches") choke the word out. And my worry and fear keep me from even thinking about bearing fruit.

I'm so worried about thorns and rocks that I'm happy to bear fruit twofold or threefold. Thirtyfold is ridiculous, but that's what Jesus said. And his not explaining that bit was on purpose. It is the interpretation of the parable. I'm supposed to be bearing fruit like that--radical harvest--but I'm too worried about the other things to get there.

It is too small a thing to receive the word and merely double the returns. It is too small a thing to bear ten times what was given. The word's power is greater than that. It has world-transforming power, but I have to get past my fears to get there.

What is it that's keeping you from bearing 100x fruit? What's keeping you from being a servant of the gospel in such a transformative manner that mountains get moved? It might be rocks and thorns--maybe--but it's probably fear, too. Get past it. Let go of the fear. I've got to see the potential harvest before I can bear fruit like that, and, in order to see it, I have to move beyond the fear that I'm inadequate. It's not me that does the work. It's not my power. It's the power of God's word.

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