The Lesson of the Fig Tree

Picture of fig tree in Israel that is out of season.

Mark 11: 12-14 \”The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, \’May no one ever eat fruit from you again.\’ And his disciples heard him say it.\”

There is a tragic lesson to be learned here. Jesus in another place in the gospels tells the disciples to \”learn the lesson of the fig tree\”. He is referring to being able to discern the time(s) of the end. His point is that when they begin to see signs of His word coming to pass, prepare because it is very soon to be fulfilled. But what is the lesson of the fig tree here in this moment? I believe it isnt a lesson so much as a warning. The passage gives us clues as to the entire situation we are reading about.

Jesus is hungry and sees a fig tree in leaf. When he gets to the tree he finds no fruit and the commentary from Mark is that it wasn\’t the season for figs. If you understand seasons, you know that we are moving from fall into winter. The leaves on the trees will change colors and fall to the ground, which causes a fun time for kids but a horrible mess for adults who have to rake the leaves (HA!). The trees according to science have stopped taking in water from ground sources and have stopped producing what is necessary to keep the leaves green and attached to the tree. It is at that time, that the tree \”sleeps\” and lives off the stored food it has been praparing through the long hot summer months. NOTE: This is why drought can be so bad and negatively affect trees, causing a premature sleeping and death due to lack of water source to drink from. But when spring or at the least spring-like weather comes about again, the tree wakes up and begins to drink from the water that has been saturating the ground around through the ice and snow melt. What happens next? The leaves begin to bud and leaf. Of course if the groundhog sees its shadow that is bad news for these budding trees, but the truth is that as the buds mature, they will produce \”fruit\”. But the sign of the possibility of fruit is the green leaf.

I know, thanks for the horticulture lesson right? The truth is there is a spiritual lesson to be learned here as well. You see Jesus has an expectation for green leafing trees; fruit. Like us, as spiritual trees, there is an expectation of fruit being produced in our lives by the Holy Spirit for not just Jesus to be proud of, but for others (the world and unbelievers) to come and pick from us to consume. This fig tree that Jesus approached had all the appearances of fruit because all the signs pointed to its being in the right time. But its wasn\’t even the right time; this was an immaturity in the tree. The tree had taken in just enough water to produce green leaves, but not enough to produce what was truly important. Like us, how many times have we been caught with all the markings of maturity but no fruit of that maturity? My guess would be often enough to be irritated by it! So what is the solution? MORE! What we need is to drink deeply and often of the Spirit of God and, with the WORD, release the process of fruit-bearing in our lives. A friend of mine, Yankton Hatten,  was remarking to me about trees and used this whole scientific premise (described above). He also continued with thoughts on the \”evergreen\” tree. Why does it maintain its color? It has figured out that deep roots get to the water table that many other trees can\’t or won\’t get too. This causes them to drink constantly rather than stop because there is a constant source they have tapped into.  What an amazing analogy for the spiritual life! The secret to long drinks is deeper depths, but the secret to deeper depths is the desire for longer, sustained drinks. Seems circular, but in reality it is the truth of growth and fruitfulness.

What is the downside to all this? Well if you see at the end of the passage, Jesus declares no one will ever eat fruit from you again. OUCH! In fact a day later, the tree withered up from the roots. Jesus isn\’t interested in a tree that will drink just enough to look the part without the fruit. He would rather you not drink at all than to drink a partial drink that doesn\’t produce anything more than a facade of maturity. This is a warning to the church! The LORD has not time for a church that wants to look right without producing what is right; but he WILL STOP to prune one that is drinking deeply in effort to stay green and produce fruit. This isn\’t a doctrinal position, this is just a Kingdom principle of expectation in the lives of each individual tree (the Christian) and the Orchard or Forest (the Church). So start drinking deeply and often, produce fruit to feed, stay green!

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