"The next morning as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. He noticed a fig tree in full leaf a little way off, so he went over to see if he could find any figs. But there were only leaves because it was too early in the season for fruit. Then Jesus said to the tree, 'May no one ever eat your fruit again!' And the disciples heard him say it...The next morning as they passed by the fig tree he had cursed, the disciples noticed it had withered from the roots up. Peter remembered what Jesus had said to the tree on the previous day and exclaimed, 'Look, Rabbi! The fig tree you cursed has withered and died!' Then Jesus said to the disciples, 'Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea, and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you've received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a gurdge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.'"
~Mark 11: 12-14, 20-25
This passage has stumped me for years! I have yet to hear or read a message about it that satisfies my questions. So I run to the One who inspired each word, seeking answers to help me understand what it means. Surely there is at least one or two treasures here, or it wouldn't be recorded in the Bible.
Let me make this perfectly clear. I am NOT a theologian. I am just a child of God who loves his Word and wants to glean from it. I want it to teach me, counsel me, and literally change me. Here's what this passage is saying to me today.
When Jesus saw this fig tree that looked pleasing to the eye but was lacking fruit, he demonstrated his power over life and death. Notice he used a tree to give us a visual of this power...he could have easily struck down one of the Pharisees! (Also interesting to note is that it was on a tree...the cross...that he ultimately demonstrated his power over life and death.) I also realize that he could have told this tree to make fruit, because it says he was hungry. He didn't do that. With this image of him cursing this beautiful but unproductive fig tree, I know there is a challenge here for me, the reader. What does my walk with God appear like to others....and to God? Am I just going through the motions? Do I just talk the talk, or do I walk the walk? In other words, do I try to keep up good appearances, or am I actually producing fruits for his kingdom?
I have a garden with multiple fruit trees and rose bushes. I do my best to take care of them, making sure they are watered, fed, and pruned regularly. In spite of my efforts, there have been a few trees and bushes that simply will not produce anything other than pretty foliage. After years of trying to get them to produce, I give up and tell my husband to get rid of them. I want to make room for plants that will produce what they are designed for.
Now it gets personal. I look around my neighborhood and see many faces that I have prayed for over the years. But truthfully, I don't think that I have been been all that fruitful in reaching out to them. I hold my faith tucked deep inside of me, afraid of offending them and being rejected. Am I behaving just like that fig tree, keeping up good appearances, but in reality producing no real fruit? Honestly, I feel more like dead wood than the lush, thriving tree I am designed to be.
Again, I have to look to the One who has power over life and death and cry out to him to breathe new life into me. I know I cannot remain stagnant with God. I am either pulling away, or I am moving closer to him. This passage reminds me that he wants me growing closer in my walk of faith everyday. This is where the rubber meets the road! When I feel inadequate or too weak to press forward, he nudges me by reminding me that with faith, all things are possible because I am plugged into the ultimate power source. I don't have to remain in my unproductive status.
He then gently and graciously reminds me to keep a close watch over my heart and not hold grudges; as long as I am forgiving others, I am being forgiven, and the channel between God and me is wide open. How critical this is if I want my life to bear fruit!
Lord, I look around my neighborhood and realize I have been like that fig tree, unproductive in a field that is ripe for the harvest. Forgive me, and breathe new life into me. Empower me to live a life that is fruitful for you and your kingdom.
"Bread for myself is a material question. Bread for my neighbor is a spiritual one."
~ Nicholas Berdyaev
"When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn't change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn't change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world."