Scripture: Matthew 12.33
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 recognized by its fruit.

 Reflection: Family Tree
By John Tillman

God’s relationship to humanity has often been best expressed in terms of family.

He bore us like his children. He bears with our stubbornness and willfulness just as we bear with that of natural children. He, as Jesus, bore the burden of sin that we could not, so that we could be restored to our position as God’s children.

Family becomes a part of your identity. Jesus spoke of God as father, but he also identified God by association with the family of the patriarchs—speaking of God as the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

Christ is clear that his definition of family goes beyond biology, beyond tribe, and beyond legal guardianship or rights of inheritance. For Jesus, family is defined by doing the will of God.

This should have been good news for the Pharisees. No one tried harder to do God’s will according to the scriptures than they did. The problem with casting the Pharisees as the villains of the New Testament is that they are the people most like modern Christians.

The Pharisees’ system of regulations was designed to ensure inner righteousness through stringent outer adherence to rules, preventatives, and traditions. Their intentions were to live a godly and righteous life. To do this they constructed rules around their rules, to ensure they’d never get close enough to actually break one.

Most modern Christians have done exactly this at one time or another. We would probably get on well with most Pharisees. We love rules, preventatives, and traditions that protect us from the possibilities of outward sin. It’s hard not to admit their practicality.

But Jesus rejects their systems and ours, pointing out once again that it is inner nature that determines what fruit our lives produce. Our systems, no matter how robust, cannot prevent sin, because sin is already within us.

Our family tree is sick at heart and only sickened fruit can come from us without Christ’s intervention. However, we can be grafted in to the family tree of Christ and bear the same fruit that he wants to bring about in our lives.

Ask the Holy Spirit to work in you. Pray Christ’s words over your life. “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good.”

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Test me, O Lord, and try me; examine my heart and mind. — Psalm 26.2

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 64 (Listen – 2:01)
Matthew 12 (Listen – 6:41)

Additional Reading
Read More about Extremism as a Discipleship Problem
Like the Pharisees, we are not ashamed to make embarrassing political alliances to ensure that we don’t lose our place of cultural influence.

Read More about Sight for the Blind
The Pharisees are easy for us to dislike when we read about their opposition to Jesus in the New Testament, but modern Christians share much more in common with the Pharisees than with Christ’s disciples.