A Mediation on the Tree and its Fruit (Trinity 8)

Our Lord says (Matt 7:15-23) that His followers are to “beware false prophets”. They are to avoid false prophets, those who do not proclaim the word of the Lord, but proclaim their own words (which would be the words of the father of lies since a prophet either belongs to the Lord or to the deceiver). These false prophets are “wolves in sheep’s clothing … ravenous wolves” that will devour the flock of God.

How are the followers of Jesus to recognize these false prophets? By their fruit; the same way they recognize true prophets. “You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” Of course not. So if the fruit is bad, the tree is bad because bad trees produce bad fruit. If the fruit is good, the tree is good because good trees produce good fruit.

So since we don’t know the value of the tree unless we know the value of the fruit, the question becomes: what’s the good and bad fruit?

It’s easy to assume that a prophet is a good prophet because he talks about Jesus and praises Him. But no one talks about and praises Jesus more than the devil. He’s always talking about Jesus. He just misrepresents Him. He’s always talking about God; just not the one true God. He’s always talking about faith; just not saving faith. He always uses the words of the Bible and quotes it, he just doesn’t actually say what the Scriptures say.  The devil is forever sounding pious and good to the ears of careless hearers. He promises life and hope, fulfillment and satisfaction. Just as God does. He promises love and acceptance and a place to call home. Just as God does. Just like God, the devil promises not to count our sins against us but to cover our faults and accept us. He promises never to reject us or kick us out or point out our weaknesses. So we often gladly hear him because he sounds so good and comforting and welcoming. He and his prophets are dressed as sheep.

In the end, the devil can sound like God. He can appear as an angel of the light. When Satan tempted Jesus, he promised the Son of God everything His Father had promised: daily bread, glory, and dominion. So how can we tell the good from the bad fruit? If the devil can sound like God, how can we discern the good from the bad? We can’t tell the good fruit from the bad fruit if the fruit is simply the word spoken. But the fruit is not simply the word spoken, what is said. The fruit of the tree is what happens because of what is said.

The devil can sound good and godly, but he cannot deliver on his promises. He cannot give you a good life because he is not good. He promises daily bread, glory, and dominion, but they are just words, they have no power to produce. They are a vaporous fog that is burned away with the dawning light of Christ. Because Christ does not just speak words and promises. The Christ delivers.

Christ says, “My Father wants you to have the kingdom and so I baptize you in my name and join you to myself. I remove your sins from you and give you my righteousness so that in me you are not condemned but have eternal life. I feed you with the bread of angels and give you drink from my cup, the cup of salvation, the river of life. I call you my own and know you by name because I named you in the waters purified by my obedience to the Father. I am your Lord and your God, and I promise to be your God and raise you up on the last day to live before me in righteousness and purity forever, even as I am risen from the dead and have joined you to me by washing you in the power of my resurrection.”

It is not that these words revive and gladden the heart, though they do. It is not that the words mention and speak of Christ, though they do this also. It is that Christ is risen from the dead. The promises of God are not promises of the future, they are promises in the man, Jesus, the Son of God. The dead will not be raised in Christ, they are raised in Christ. The new creation will be coming at the end of time, the new creation has come in the fulness of time in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The kingdom of heaven will not appear in the distant future, but appears now and forever in the risen Lord.

The tongue of the devil will always promise you something that sounds good and godly, something you want and for which you even pray. But his promises will always and only be unfulfilled promises of a future that does not exist and will never be. No matter how wonderful it may sound. His promises are lies. They are a mist burned away by the fire of the word of the Lord.  The honey from Christ’s tongue is not a future promise based on a flimsy hope of what we want to be true, but is a past reality fulfilled in Christ risen from the dead. 

The devil can’t steal the power of the word of God, even if he steals to himself the preacher. The devil and his prophets can’t preach the word of the Lord on behalf of his murderous kingdom. Even if they repeat Christ verbatim, it remains the word of Christ and belongs to Him and brings with it the Holy Spirit, not the spirit of deception, so that faith is created in Christ and good fruit is born of the word of the Lord. For the tree is Christ and so the fruit is good even if the preacher be of a wicked and perverse heart.

The word of the Lord doesn’t change in the mouth of the liar but changers the liar into a prophet of God so that even if he is wicked and evil the good tree that is Christ still bears good fruit; fruit that is pleasing to the eye of faith and good to eat. For it is not the preacher of which we eat and are well fed, but we feed on the fruit of the tree, and the tree is Christ.


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