16th Sunday Ordinary Time – Bear Fruit!
This parable points to the fruit-bearing mission of disciples. Really, it’s like the Parable of the Sower in a lot of ways. There, we see fruitful and unfruitful earth. In this parable, we see wheat (karpós, fruit) and weeds (unfruitful growth). “Can’t have one without the other,” as the old song goes.
So, what kind of fruit? Here’s one kind John the Baptist points to…
Matthew 3:7–9 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.
Matthew 3:10 Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
And what kind of repentance? This parable of Jesus directed to the scribes and Pharisees (you & me) nails it – coveting, demanding, & self-will that leads to violence…
Matthew 21:33f “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce.
Matthew 21:41–43 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.
Jesus counsels the scribes & Pharisees who had just attacked him:
Matthew 12:32f Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. “Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. (See also 7:15-20; 21:19)
Matthew holds together the tension between “don’t pull up the weeds until harvest” and “Repent!” One only leads to laxity. The other only to self-recrimination and fear of damnation. As much as we can, we get to stand in the middle between allowing and repenting. And this is the way we bear the fruit of repentance!