bible blog 1180

This blog offers a meditation on he Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news


Iranian guard

Iranian guard

Matthew 12:33-42

New English Translation (NET)

Trees and Their Fruit

33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is known by its fruit.34 Offspring of vipers! How are you able to say anything good, since you are evil? For the mouth speaks from what fills the heart.35 The good person brings good things out of his good treasury, and the evil person brings evil things out of his evil treasury. 36 I tell you that on the day of judgment, people will give an account for every worthless word they speak. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

The Sign of Jonah

38 Then some of the experts in the law along with some Pharisees answered him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. 41 The people of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented when Jonah preached to them—and now, something greater than Jonah is here! 42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon—and now, something greater than Solomon is here!

Jesus makes a terrible statement about evil words; they come from an evil person. We are accustomed to draw a sharp distinction between words and deeds. Jesus will have none of this. The Pharisees have called Jesus a tool of the Devil because they want to damage his reputation. Jesus warns that the evil words reveal their evil hearts. Of course sometimes good people will say bad things, and bad people good things, but habitually judgmental or denigratory speech can only come from evil people.

We are accustomed to say that it’s OK to call the words or deeds evil but not the person. Jesus will have none of this; the bad fruit comes from a bad tree. He teaches that the human heart, the centre of feeling and will, can be taken over by the power of evil which damages, diminishes and degrades life.  He does not regard evil people as irredeemable; of course they can change; but first they must be faced with the truth about themselves. 

Bad words come from bad people. We are finding that with regard to bullying words on Facebook and Twitter; but it’s also true of lying and denigratory journalism. Those who write such words must not think that they’re just doing what their editor wanted; they are bringing evil things out of an evil treasury and will be called to account for every worthless word they write. How can a bad tree be made good? Jesus says that the divine gardener is very patient with bad trees, hoping for good fruit sometime. Those who open their hearts to the goodness of God will find that the evil is evicted, so that the good may take up residence.

The sign of Jonah, who was “dead” for three days in the whale is the sign of Jesus’ death on the cross. The proof of Jesus’ ministry will be his death-and Matthew hints-his resurrection.  Jesus reminds his hearers that the Ninevites listened to Jonah and the Queen of the South listened to Solomon but his generation in Israel has not listened to Jesus who as the beloved of God is greater than either. Here again we see Jesus refusing to do tricks to prove his authenticity. That proof will be his willingness to die for God’s truth. Not that he wants to die or to be a martyr however innocent. He wants to live and to communicate God’s goodness. But he will not be silenced by threats. The same is true for Jesus’ disciples today. They can offer no gimmicks, tricks, or free gifts to prove their faith; only their quiet determination to live by it come what may, can do that.

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