I know David touched on this last week, but he also gave an open door that I might want to come back and touch on some things. He was right - imagine that!
I want to go back and revisit a topic - trees and fruit.
REVIEW: this section in the gospel is about the rejection or acceptance of Jesus.
Matthew 12:22–24 CSB
22 Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and unable to speak was brought to him. He healed him, so that the man could both speak and see. 23 All the crowds were astounded and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”
24 When the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man drives out demons only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.”
The crowds were starting to put the pieces together. They was thinking this could be the one - the king to sit on the throne of David that was promised long ago. The Messiah, the son of God.
The Pharisees, who SHOULD have seen the signs and wonders and known who Jesus was, continued to reject Jesus. The Pharisees rejected Jesus to the point of saying that he was working for the Prince of Demons and NOT for Yahweh.
After all that the Pharisees had seen Jesus do: all the healings, casting out demons, raising people from the dead - after all these things they still do not believe he was sent from God.
After all the Pharisees heard Jesus teach - like the sermon on the hill - the still want to say that he is a teaching tool of Beelzebul and not the mouthpiece of Yahweh.
Part of Jesus’ response to the statement of the Pharisees, we read this:
Matthew 12:33–35 CSB
33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit will be good, or make the tree bad and its fruit will be bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. 34 Brood of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. 35 A good person produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil person produces evil things from his storeroom of evil.
Jesus makes part of his defense by referring to trees and fruit. What is he saying in verse 33 is that if you are going to say the tree is bad you have to say the fruit is bad. Or, if you are going to say the fruit is good, you must also accept that tree is good.
The wording of verse 33 can make it a challenge to grasp in English. I think the NASB 2020 actually does a really good job of it. ⚡
Matthew 12:33 NASB 2020
33 “Either assume the tree to be good as well as its fruit good, or assume the tree to be bad as well as its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.
Jesus had spoken about trees and fruit previously in Matthew’s gospel.
Matthew 7:18–19 CSB
18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
I those verses the emphasis was on the tree. A good tree produces good fruit.
In this new teaching from Jesus, the emphasis is slightly different but the message is the same. Jesus says this: if you see good fruit, you cannot say the tree is bad. If you see bad fruit, you cannot say the tree is good.
If a tree is known by it’s fruit, then the examination of the fruit will dictate how the tree is classified.
The Pharisees said Jesus was working for the prince of demons. Yet the miracles Jesus did, including healing the mans shriveled up hand just a short time before this, were fruit that was good. Jesus was doing the will of the Father, showing compassion and mercy and even overlooking offenses. He was doing the THINGS OF GOD:
QUESTION: If what he was doing demonstrated the character, compassion and mission of God - the fruit was good - should’t we assume that the person (tree) is good?
Let’s go back to the beginning of this section of narrative about accepting or rejecting Jesus. When John wanted clarity about whether or not Jesus was THE one sent from God, Jesus in essence said, “look at the fruit and decide for yourself”.
Matthew 11:2–6 CSB
2 Now when John heard in prison what the Christ was doing, he sent a message through his disciples 3 and asked him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” 4 Jesus replied to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news, 6 and blessed is the one who isn’t offended by me.”
The message to John was to look at the deeds, the fruit of the works of Jesus, and the message he proclaimed and determine who he is.
Let’s go back to Matthew 12:33 - “Either make the tree good and its fruit will be good, or make the tree bad and its fruit will be bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.”
In the passage in chapter 12, Jesus was telling the Pharisees that they could not declare the things he was doing as good and then say that he is bad.
THEN, he flips it on them. The fruit of Jesus works demonstrated that he was good. What then were the works of the pharisees and where they good or bad?
THEY presume to be good and the keepers of all goodness, and yet the fruit of their actions and words are bad.
Luke 6:11 CSB
11 They, however, were filled with rage and started discussing with one another what they might do to Jesus.
Murder, slander and rage are certainly NOT character traits that God applauds! Simply go back to the 10 Commandments and it is pretty easy to see:
What Jesus was saying about the fruit of the Pharisees was pretty much a quote from David and he confronted Saul: ⚡
1 Samuel 24:13 (CSB)
13 As the old proverb says, ‘Wickedness comes from wicked people.’
RABBIT TRAIL: by the way, that is a really cool passage to study and to see David as the “Anointed One” and Saul as either the Pharisees or Israel.
While the Pharisees put on the appearance of being godly and good, their actions and words proved that they, and their religious system, were in fact not good. Jesus called them out for this:
Matthew 12:34 CSB
34 Brood of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.
Jesus is denouncing the self-righteous religious leaders by saying their fruit has proven that they are bad trees! The mouth speaks from what is in the heart. In other words, the words are evil so the heart is evil also. The fruit illuminates the health of the tree.
He associated them with vipers for the second time in this gospel (there will be a third).
When you think of snakes or serpents, what comes to mind?
My mind has to go back to the serpent from the garden that twisted God’s words to deceive Eve into defining good and bad on her own terms. People have been deceived by by those that twist God’s word since the beginning - and it happened in Jesus day and it happens still today!
2 Corinthians 11:3 CSB
3 But I fear that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your minds may be seduced from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
The Pharisees were compared to the great deceiver who appeared to speak on God’s behalf but was actually perverting the words of God and drawing people away from God (scattering).
WAIT! I thought their religion was based on the Law and the Prophets?
It was… at one time. But it had grown into something it was never meant to be. It had become unhealthy.
I have some hydrated prune trees - plumb trees - that I have been growing for years. They do grow fruit, but it has not been good fruit. Why? Because I do not know how to prune them properly! I have too much foliage, too many extra branches that are choking the life out of the fruit. In this case, the tree may be good, but the fruit is bad because the extra branches are sucking the life out of the fruit. What a great analogy of the Pharisees’ system of religion! They had so many extra, dense additions to their faith that it choked out any hope of producing good fruit.
As if Jesus had not been clear enough, he gave even more detail about good and evil. Only, now he switches from the concept of fruit and trees to treasure. ⚡
Matthew 12:35 CSB
35 A good person produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil person produces evil things from his storeroom of evil.
The word for storeroom is also the word for treasure or treasury. This is the place that you put the things that you value. You don’t pile up your compost there, you don’t store your oily rags or dirty diapers. A treasury is a place to store valuables.
Jesus used this word before in his teaching:
Matthew 6:19–21 CSB
19 “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Equation: What you put INTO your storeroom is influenced by and will influence your heart. What is in your heart will influence what you say and what you do:
Matthew 12:34–35 (CSB)
34 ... For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. 35 A good person produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil person produces evil things from his storeroom of evil.
The wording is such that a person “produces” or pull out of the storeroom to give to others. I think the way the NASB translates this verse is helpful: ⚡
Matthew 12:35 NASB 2020
35 The good person brings out of his good treasure good things; and the evil person brings out of his evil treasure evil things.
So, there are two treasure trunks: one is full of good things, and one is full of evil things.
What types of things did Jesus do that were good? [met the needs of others, taught others about God, told others about repentance, loved tax collectors and sinners, etc]
What types of things did the Pharisees do that were evil? [plotted to kill Jesus, spoke wrongly about him, accused him of working for the devil, etc]
Jesus said and did good things because he was God and had the spirit of God in him. The Pharisees did evil because they had evil inside of them - pride and arrogance for sure!
ILLUSTRATION: have 2 “trunks” or bins of items. One is a bunch of junk items one is a bunch of good items. Have two volunteers and give each of them a trunk.
I am hungry, can you give me something to eat? [kind bar vs rotten banana peel]
wow, that snack made me thirsty, do either of you have something I can drink? [bottle of mud water and a mineral water]
those fans are making me cold - can you help with that? [a coat vs a rag with a bunch of holes in it]
Why did I keep getting bad stuff from this one person? Because that was all they had in their trunk. You cannot give out what you do not have, or you could say that you can only give away that which you possess.
QUESTION: so how do we get good things in our storehouse, in our treasure chest?
Since only God is good - spending time learning FROM him and ABOUT him certainly is a great place to begin to have good treasures, good fruit. The Bible you have is a book of revelations - it reveals God to us. But you can’t just have the book on your shelf or under your pillow and expect that the truth in it will magically seep into your head and our heart. You have to read it and study it.
Psalm 119:9–11 CSB
9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping your word. 10 I have sought you with all my heart; don’t let me wander from your commands. 11 I have treasured your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you.
When we treasure God’s word, we gain good treasure that we can pull out later!
This is not just like sitting on a mountain clearing your mins of all things so you can have only one thought. This is more about being careful what you allow INTO your heart - the music, shows, books, jokes, etc. that you consume become a part of you. They are fuel for the fruit.
There was an old programming mantra: GIGO - Garbage In -> Garbage Out.
Colossians 3:1–2 CSB
1 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
It might seem overly obvious, but I need to point out that God can change the way you think, the way you act and the way you talk - and he is very good at it!
Romans 12:2 NLT
2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
The awesome thing is that when we place our faith in Jesus, his Spirit lives in us and helps us to have the right things inside of us. In other words, we possess the Spirit inside of us, so we are able to give away the things that reflect God. Christians have the fruit of the spirit, and we should always have that available to share!
Galatians 5:22–23 CSB
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.
God’s Spirit produces the fruit that we need to share with others. It is not about our material possessions: some may have a lot and others may have a little. It is about what is valued in our hearts. IF we are following God (true disciples as we will study next week), then our hearts will treasure what God treasures and our fruit will be what honors God. [we will be “in his image” and “bearing his name”]
BUT! Is it possible to have both good and bad fruit on a tree?
QUESTION: does a good tree ALWAYS produce good fruit? ONLY if you are Jesus!
There will always be some bad fruit on even the best trees! However, the majority of the fruit on a good tree will be good fruit. If there are branches that produce bad fruit they need to be pruned off - if there are parts of your life, things you do or say that would not be “holy” and pleasing to God, they you need to cut them out!
John 15:4–6 CSB
4 Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
In those verses we are reminded that those who reject Jesus will be pruned and burned up. Those that accept Jesus will still having pruning in their lives, but it will produce life: fruit.
So, the first fruit of “good” would be repentance! Matthew already taught on that too when he introduced us to John and his ministry:
Matthew 3:7–8 CSB
7 When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance.
Matthew 3:10 CSB
10 The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
And when we DO repent and we DO accept Jesus, we are given the Spirit of God that allows us to pull for the treasure of thing that please God - our actions and words can please God.
So, as we wrap up this teaching together let’s reflect on some things:
Have you produced the fruit that is consistent with repentance? Do you believe that Jesus was the Son of God who came to die for your sins and mine and have you asked God to forgive you for your sins?
IF NOT: today is a great day to do so! It is a simple as a prayer: “God, I know I have done wrong and I am sorry. I believe you sent Jesus to die for my sins so that I can be forgiven and part of your family. Please forgive me so I can experience the rest of my life knowing you, loving you and living for you. Amen”
If you have accepted Jesus, are there things that need to be pruned from your life? Are there things that you say or do that would be considered “evil” or “bad” in God’s eyes? If so, you can prune those by confession and repentance: 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Are you reading God’s Word, allowing the spirit to change you? Are you filling your heart and mind with good things - the things above? If not, this is a great time to start!
Let’s end our time with a prayer like king David had:
Psalm 51:10–12 NLT
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. 11 Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
HINT at the future of this theme with a religious leader who appears to be open to accepting Jesus:
Matthew 13:52 CSB
52 “Therefore,” he said to them, “every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom treasures new and old.”