In the cold dark of winter here in the northern hemisphere one rarely thinks of fruit bearing for the ground is hard and the trees are barren. Psalm 1 uses the imagery of a tree to refer to a person that is blessed, lush and fruit bearing. The condition for the person to be fruitful is meditation on God’s commands day and night and it does not depend on seasons but on the person’s planting in the vine, by the river that flows continuously without freezing! [Ps1]
Dr. Luke shares with us that John the Baptist was now ready to be a fruit bearer and the word of God called him to leave his home in the dry and thirsty land of the wilderness. Both John’s call and God’s calendar timing were aligned perfectly. Think back to your childhood and see if you can recall your parents recounting something extraordinary regarding your birth and what they hoped for you as you grew and matured. Mine was that Mother went into labor at a New Year’s Eve party and thus the rest is history. You can guess how many times I heard that story! John was probably no different. Yes, he was “weird” because he didn’t dress like the rest of the kids, he probably didn’t play the same games nor join the same youth group. He was a loner by choice and design. He also most likely had listened to his father recount the angelic prophecy regarding his destiny and he rolled his eyes but took it all in and pondered what it all meant. When he left home he didn’t go and get married nor take on an occupation. He was after all a priest’s son and most likely read and studied the Torah like a pro! When did he decide to retreat to the wilderness is anybody’s guess.
What did he do there in the wilderness? He had become an expert it seems in catching locusts and finding the beehives from which he could extract the wild honey ..without getting stung! We would say he was a real backwoodsman! But he also had spent time meditating upon the Word of God and at the appointed time, God called and John without reservation obeyed. God turned him into a one man teacher who was “different.” He was not ashamed of the gospel. He preached as if there were no tomorrow’s and for him that literally came true when he spoke out against Herod’s illicit relationship with Herodias. He preached the message of repentance for the forgiveness of sin as he prepared the way of our Lord, the Lamb of God.
Do you find yourself in a wilderness and feel like God has yet to call you? Take heart, it is in this wilderness John was being prepared for his mission and it is in the wilderness that God is training you. He wants you and I to be “different” from the world and ready to storm it with his message of love, repentance and forgiveness. In God’s training camp we are able to meditate upon his Word and hide it within our hearts and when we are ready and God’s calendar has our name penciled in, he calls us to go forth and bear fruit. God’s call is as important as the timing. John came out of the wilderness at God’s appointed “season” to prepare the people for the entrance of the Lamb of God.
John challenged his listeners to produce fruit that proved their repentance which was to be a picture to others of their spiritual realignment. “John is not unreasonable in demanding good fruit. True repentance will always have fruit – and the basic fruit of the Christian life is love (Galatians 5:22 and 1 Corinthians 13:1-3).” [Guzik] Jesus taught the same in John 15. To be fruit bearers Jesus said one must abide in him because apart from him we can do nothing. We cannot bear fruit because we are not rooted in the vine nor are we planted by the rivers of water being immersed in the Word and being washed by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Hearing his message the crowd asked John: “What then should we do?” John told his audience the basics of fruit that everyone should bear; the everyday ordinaries such as being a person of integrity, being honest, being generous, being faithful, being content. Perhaps you are still asking “what should I do?” God is saying fulfill all of these even to the least of these. Go and be my witnesses. Go and share the gospel through love and kindness. Go and bear the Fruit of the Spirit. Have you thought that you are not yet prepared to be a fruit bearer? Beloved, if we fulfill even just these simple ordinary tasks to our fellow man, to the Samaritans in our midst we ARE being a fruit bearer.
Beloved, think back; what did you do today or what will you do tomorrow to be a fruit bearer for Christ to demonstrate your call?