We know that God is on the look out for the lost (Luke 19:10), two spectacular examples being social pariahs: Zacchaeus the tax collector (Luke 19:0) and the woman of Sychar (John 4: 4-42). But, in doing so, he is specifically looking out for fruit, according to Jesus’ parable recorded exclusively by (Luke 13:6-9). God is like ‘a man [who] had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.’ So he told ‘the vine dresser, “Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and I find none. Cut it down.” The employee pleaded, “Sir, let it alone this year also,” promising to loosen the soil and feed the roots. “Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but, if not, you can cut it down.”
- God is seeking ‘fruits of repentance’
Just before his strap line, saying: ‘the Son of Man came [only this once to Jericho, so far as we are told] to seek and to save the lost’ (Luke 19:10), Jesus announced: ‘Today salvation has come to this house’ (Luke 19:9). It was obvious to everyone there why this was so certain, because Zacchaeus had just produced what John the Baptist had pleaded for of the crowds requesting his baptism, namely ‘fruits in keeping with repentance,’ instead of smugly boasting, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ In fact, John specifically addressed tax collectors: ‘Collect no more than you are authorised to do’ (Luke 19:3:8, 12-13). So, by his returning all fraudulent cash with interest, Zacchaeus now qualified, said Jesus, as ‘a son of Abraham’ (Luke 19:8-9).
- He seeks for ‘the fruit of lips’ of refreshing worshippers (Hebrews 13:15)
In his spectacular encounter with the Samaritan woman Jesus undermined her trust in mere religious ritual. He pointed out two essential factors missing from her worship, that ‘true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him’ (John 4:23-24). The Spirit’s internal gushing ‘spring’ of ‘living water’ and her own intention to relate to God in reality (‘truth’) constituted her a genuine worshipper and a very effective witness to Jesus.
Following one of the most ruthless attacks on Christians in Pakistan, those bereaved by the bombing of All Saints Church in Peshawar in September 2013 responded by ‘continually offer[ing] up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name’ (Hebrew 13:15). Said teenager Shaloom Naeem: ‘Although my entire family is dead, I am not afraid to go to church. We should thank God for his great love’. And a couple who lost three of their grandchildren declared: ‘Hallelujah to the Most High. His Son died for our sins; our loss is nothing compared to his sacrifice.’
- He seeks for the fruits of sanity and stability
In 2 Kings 6:1-7 a disciple of Elisha, whose axe head had dropped into the Jordan, metaphorically ‘lost his head’ and was ‘beside himself’ (or his axe handle!). Through Elisha, God sought for the recovery of his cutting edge. He acted as Moses had done in Exodus 15:19-26 when, within three days, a worshipping congregation grumbled against him, and God revealed himself as ‘the Lord, your healer.’ But, whose healer is he? The healer of those who listen to his word and his voice and who ‘keep all his statutes’ (Exodus 15:26).