Luke XXVI: Luke 6:39-49
Jesus concludes His charge to those who would lead His people and (by implication) those who would follow Him (and them), with three exhortations.
First, a leader must be someone who sees clearly. A blind leader will produce blind followers (Lk. 6:39-40). In order for a leader to see clearly, he must consider the beam in his own eye (Lk. 6:41-42). Removing a speck from your brother’s eye is not at odds with the prohibition against “judging,” but rather insists on a “measure” for judgment, i.e. judge yourself first (Gal. 6:1, 2 Cor. 13:5). Notice also that in the Kingdom there is no contradiction between “brothers” correcting one another and having disciples and teachers, leaders and followers. There is equality and hierarchy. Finally, the real leader turns out to be the one who is willing to remove the plank out of his own eye first (Lk. 6:42). This is the leadership of humility and responsibility. In the Kingdom, leadership is not based on natural gifting or personality. In the Kingdom, leadership is based on being able to see clearly, and that happens when Jesus opens your eyes to see your own sin and your own need for a Savior (cf. Lk. 4:18). Christian leadership is seeing your deep need for grace and leading others to see it for themselves (e.g. Ps. 51:13-14, 1 Tim. 1:15-16).
In context, the “good tree” that produces “good fruit” is a teacher who sees clearly and produces disciples that see clearly like him (Lk. 6:40). Which is to say, disciples that consider the beams in their own eyes, remove them proficiently, and are used by God to remove the specks of others (Lk. 6:42). Conversely, bad trees that produce bad fruit are blind hypocrites who can’t see their blind spots, pretend everything is fine, and produce disciples just like them (Lk. 6:43). Bad trees and bad fruit end up in the pit together (Lk. 6:39). Once again, the prohibition against “judging” is not at odds with noticing good trees and bad trees, good fruit and bad fruit. Jesus says that each tree is known by its fruit (Lk. 6:44). The admonition is to judge yourself first, be stricter with yourself, and begin with the assumption that your problem is bigger.
As Jesus develops the image, the fruit morphs particularly into the words and heart of a man (Lk. 6:45). The words are produced by the “treasury” of the heart. This relates back to the original beatitudes and woes. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (cf. Mt. 6:21). Either your heart will trust Jesus and receive poverty, hunger, sorrows, and hatred as a “blessing” and you’ll become fruitful (e.g. Ps. 1) or you will trust in your circumstances and become fruitless (Lk. 6:20-26).
A Well Built House
As Jesus turns to the last image and exhortation, He asks why some call Him “Lord, Lord” but do not produce what He says (Lk. 6:46). The “good fruit” is listening to the words of Jesus and producing His fruit. Connecting all the previous dots, it’s clear that in the first instance, Jesus is the good tree that produces good fruit. As a branch cannot bear fruit unless it abides in the vine, neither can you bear good fruit, unless you abide in Jesus (Jn. 15:4). Bad trees may try to imitate His fruit, but in the end, thorns and brambles are nothing like fruit. The difference between the obedient and the disobedient is like night and day, light and darkness. This is not because Christians don’t sin. Rather, when they do, they repent and believe. Interestingly, the image shifts once more: The solid, fruitful tree becomes a house built on a solid foundation that withstands the floods (Lk. 6:48). But the blind and rotten trees are houses without foundations, and when they fall, their ruin is great (Lk. 6:49).
Eyes, Trees, and Houses
It doesn’t seem like an accident that these final exhortations to the disciples move from eyes to trees to houses since that is a central story arc in the Bible. Eve saw the fruit of the tree that was “good for food,” that it was “a delight to the eyes, and was “to be desired to make one wise,” and then she took some of it and ate (Gen. 3:6). Eve failed to be a faithful wife and sister to Adam, and he in turned failed to be a faithful husband and brother to her. While their eyes were “opened” – they were also filled with shame. That’s when the log of sin got into our eyes, or better, the whole cursed tree got into our eyes and made us blind and judgmental and hateful toward God and one another. The Garden of Eden was a sanctuary, a natural house where God walked and talked with Adam and Eve. But after the Fall, they were excluded from the presence of God. Over the years, He would instruct His people to cut down trees and build houses where God would meet with His people again.
Ultimately, Jesus came as the new Adam, as one of us, and though there was no plank in His eye, and He saw all things clearly, we hated that clarity and truth telling and so we nailed Him to a pole, to the cursed tree that was in our eye. But the glorious thing is that when Jesus was nailed to that tree, He took it away, He pulled it out of our eyes. He told the truth about our sin, about our rebellion against God and our hatred of one another, and then He took it away. And when He took away our deadwood, He became our living tree, so that we might become good trees, with good hearts, that produce good fruit, and together we might become a new garden-house built on a solid rock.
Conclusions & Applications
We can apply these lessons individually, in our families, in our church, and in our community. Leadership in the Kingdom comes by humble service and the blessing of God. Every man in Adam is a blind bramble bush without a foundation confidently veering towards the cliff and great ruin. But Jesus came to proclaim the recovery of sight to the blind, to turn thornbushes into apple trees. The startling thing is that it turns out that the pit we’ve fallen into is actually the very place where God loves to pour the solid foundation of His grace. You don’t climb out in order to become a solid house. No, the deeper the pit, the deeper He digs, the more solid the rock.