Monday, February 25, 2013

The cursed fig tree

Our pastor taught on the fig tree in Mark 11: 12-14.
Side note: When I was little I thought a Fig Newton was a fig.

"On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again!" And His disciples were listening."
Later on in verse 20: "As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up."

This passage has always confused me a little. I understood the link to the mostly well-known point of God hating fruitlessness... but it seemed, though I knew this couldn't be the case, that Jesus was lashing out in anger and hunger. Another point that bothered me is that it says right there that it WAS NOT THE SEASON FOR FIGS. I mean, gee whiz. Jesus knew the season for figs. He created the season for figs. So why did He go to it expecting fruit?

One third of the writings of the gospels center around this last week of Jesus' life. Why did the fig tree story even make it in there? And why was it broken up into two parts?

I've never looked any deeper into this passage. I saw it as another of Jesus' miracles in nature (a beautiful flourishing tree withering overnight) and yet another example of unfruitfulness. But that was all.

And so, if you care to read what I learned via our pastor's studies and teachings... read on.

Fig tree start producing fruit buds prior to producing leaves. Thus, a tree in full leaf has (or SHOULD have) ripe fruit. This tree was telling everyone that it was covered in fruit, but a closer look revealed the truth. Although beautiful and vibrant on the outside, a closer look revealed it was useless. It had been able to produce leaves far ahead of its season. Apparently, it had had the advantage in sun, water, and soil, and shelter. There was no excuse for no fruit. And Jesus isn't lashing out under the complaints of an empty stomach. We know He isn't because this would be sin and He lived a perfect life. It's really more like a statement, or maybe a prayer of judgement. "May no on ever eat fruit from you again."

Often in the book of Mark, we have bookends. The fig tree story starts in verses 12-14 and then is finished in verse twenty. In verses 15-19 we get to Jerusalem.
 Ahhhh. Jerusalem. The shining, city on a hill. The hill that housed God's chosen people. The ones that God had planted in the Promised Land...  the land that He had prepared for them with no enemies, good soil and water, and plenty of sunshine. They should be thriving! And they were! The city was famous as was the temple inside the city.  The temple was God's House. The place that everyone, once a year had to come to to make their sacrifices. So many many sacrifices! So many people coming to make those sacrifices! So many leaves on this beautiful fig tree inside this beautiful city on top of this beautiful hill! But Jesus, walking into His Father's house, finds absolutely no fruit. He finds people who claim to be seeing, but are actually blind. They were beautiful on the outside, professing a great godliness with their temple and their unblemished lambs, yet really knowing nothing. And Jesus clears them all out.

The second bookend comes in verse twenty. We see that Jesus' judgement on the fig tree came true. From the roots up, the once thriving tree is dead. It is no longer any use. And like that fig tree, Jerusalem showed that it was useless. And God is putting her aside because His work will no longer be accomplished through her, but through the church.

Which leads to the application part: Am I covered in leaves? Am I advertising that I have fruit, but don't? Have I fooled those who pass me at a distance... yet when anyone truly takes a closer look at my life, they quickly realize I'm good for nothing but the fire? Are you?


Meryl said...

Thought provoking and convicting...thanks for sharing. You are blessed to sit under such a good teacher, and the church is blessed to have you as a member of the body.

Ted said...

And we are blessed to have you as a daughter!

And the Lord's prophesy was fulfilled in a greater way some 30 years later - when the temple and Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans.