‘Multiply and fill the earth’
No two ways about it. God’s people are those who live according to his will and obey the Lord’s commands.
And what was the very first command?
After God created people in his own image, he blessed them and told them, “Multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. Be masters over the fish and birds and all the animals.”
It is a principle built into creation itself. The Almighty had just created seed-bearing plants and trees that grow seed-bearing fruit. The seeds were designed to reproduce the kinds of plants and trees from which they came.
A plant or tree bears fruit, which contains seeds, which produce new fruit, which produce new seeds. The multiplication goes on and on.
If you do the math, it staggers the imagination. From just one seed springs a tree that, in due time, can yield a harvest of 500 apples a year. If each of those 500 apples bears 10 seeds, each of those in turn can, in due time, produce a tree that itself will bear 500 apples a year — each with 10 seeds, each producing a tree that will bear 500 apples a year, and so on.
In one fruitful season, a lone seed becomes 5,000. In a second season, 5,000 multiplies to 25 million seeds, which in turn become 125 billion seeds in a third season! And each tree produced in each generation also continues to yield 5,000 seeds a year.
That’s how God designed his world to work. Plants would multiply themselves. Animals would multiply themselves. People would multiply themselves. And the earth would be filled with the glory of God.
Jesus is teaching by the lake. A large crowd gathers along the shore. Jesus gets into a boat and speaks from there. He tells a story about a farmer who went out to plant some seed. Some of it falls on a footpath, some of it on shallow, rocky soil, some of it among thorns.
But some of the seed falls on fertile soil and it does what seeds do naturally: produce a crop.
And like every crop, each seed multiplies itself. Thirty times over. Sixty. Even a hundred.
Jesus explains the point to his disciples – very plainly in hopes they will understand: “The good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s message and produce a huge harvest – thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted.”
At another time, Jesus made the analogy much more personal.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. … My true disciples produce much fruit. This brings great glory to my Father.”
It’s the most natural thing in the world: Branches bear fruit that contain seeds, and seeds produce the kind of fruit-bearing plant from which they came.
What do disciples produce when they bear fruit?
And when a disciple doesn’t produce more disciples?
Jesus said: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that doesn’t produce fruit. … Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful apart from me. … Anyone who parts from me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.”
Bearing fruit and reproducing yourself many times over – God hardwired it into his creation. The necessity of disciples multiplying themselves was one of Jesus’ core teachings. The issue was so crucial that he made it the last thing he said to his followers:
“Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them … and teaching them to obey all the commands I have given you.”
We are so badly broken that we cannot fix ourselves or others. God’s mission has always been to do justice for us, to set us free and restore the shalom peace he created in the beginning. Jesus’ mission was to be God-in-the-flesh among us, showing us by example what it looks like to walk in God’s ways, enjoy abundant life, and be an instrument of God’s justice and peace in a broken world. Jesus commissions his followers to be disciples who imitate him and reproduce themselves by showing others how to be set free and walk in God’s ways.
“Multiply and fill the earth.”
Think about it
Who was the “branch” that brought glory to God by producing you as fruit?
In light of the “crop” produced by your life so far, which of the four soils would you be most like?
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Next chapter: Under orders from the King