Lord, why would you do that? The judgement of the fig tree
Recently I created a little list on my iNotes on my phone about ways of incorporating more prayer into my day to day life. This iNote was just a little brain dump of ideas I was hoping to expand on further in a blog post.
As I was writing, I made one particular point that, looking back, is pretty embarrassing. I wrote (don’t laugh) “Like an affirmation, when you speak Biblical truth often enough you begin to believe it. When you believe it, you begin to live it.” You may be thinking… and? Declaring Biblical truth is important! I’d agree with that. But hear me out.
Lately I have been reading the same stories from each gospel on a different day from the Bible reading plan I am following. I recently read the story of Jesus cursing the fig tree in 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.
Lord, why would you do that? The judgement of the fig tree
Until this moment I had overlooked this passage a couple of times. Mostly because I didn’t understand it. But that day, I wanted to know more. Isn’t it funny how God can open your eyes to a passage the moment your heart will receive it?
So naturally I’m sitting there thinking Why would you do that, Lord? That doesn’t seem like a productive thing to do. I know you were hungry but still?
I know it goes without saying but everything Jesus has done throughout the Gospels was purposeful. That purpose is to teach our wayward hearts lessons of the Kingdom of heaven. The Lord speaks in parables, or disguised truths, through stories. This passage is no exception!
So, I took a quick trip over to the Google machine to understand this passage better. There I learned that fig trees usually show their leaves after the fruit blooms. So, it was only natural that Jesus assumed there would be fruit on the fig tree. Upon closer inspection, the Lord realized he had been, well, deceived by appearances. A tree that looked to be bearing fruit was actually fruitless and He then cast judgement on it and destroyed it from the root.
That feeling of realization that washes over you when you understand a passage anew from a spiritual lens never gets old. I suddenly felt chagrin about what I had written in that iNote; was this the Lord’s way of telling me something?
I know that I am not the fig tree. But boy, when I understood it in that first moment, you better believe I said to God oh Lord, is that me? Don’t let it be me! After a moment of heartfelt worry and stress, the Lord lead me to this verse in John 15:
I am the true vine, and My Father is the keeper of the vineyard. He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, and every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes to make it even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself unless it remains in the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.
He challenges us to see the world from the lens of the Spirit.
I would never have expected the Lord to use cursing a fig tree as such a strong metaphor for walking in the Spirit! The more I read and study the Gospels, the more I notice the Lord has a habit of surprising me. He often does the opposite of what the world would expect, including his own disciples. The Lord is constantly teaching us to step outside of our worldly lens and see things anew from the Spirit.
In this passage, I notice how Judas exemplifies false fruit perfectly but the Lord again catches us all by surprise by pulling the disciples up on their worldly perspective:
Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?” It was worth a years wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
Jesus Anointed At Bethany: John 12:1-8
While this passage is portrayed differently in Matthew and Mark, in the Gospel of John it is specifically Judas Iscariot who objects to Mary pouring the ointment over Jesus. In other passages it says that the disciples in general mumble to themselves about whether it was the right thing to do.
If you know anything about the character of Judas, well, it won’t come as a surprise that this is a classic example of false appearances. Judas, who steals from the money bag and betrays Jesus, did not care about the poor when he said this. He had the appearance of another disciple who was genuinely concerned about where to put their Godly efforts including their time and finances. But when push came to shove, Judas was the only one bearing false fruit.
Can you see the difference between the hearts of Judas and Mary? On the one hand, Judas is, like the Pharisees who had an outward appearance of righteousness, pretending to care about others. On the other hand, you have Mary, who wanted to honor the Lord by doing something to make Him feel special.
Can you see why that iNote is so embarrassing? *facepalm*
Trust me, I wasn’t keen to share what I wrote in that iNote here but my life isn’t mine nor is this blog. I know I am not the only one who has been caught up by appearances. We all have our moments. I want to be as transparent as possible about that.
In comparison to someone like Mary, who honored the Lord with the most expensive thing she had… My idea to “repeat it until you believe it and live it,” was put to utter shame. Not to mention in comparison to the woman who bled for 12 years, who thought, If I could just touch the hem of His cloak, I will be healed… what I wrote looked like child’s play.
The Lord wants us to be watered from the root by abiding in Him.
Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. John 7:37-38
I know the Lord highlighted this little meaningless memo in my iNotes so that I could bring it here today. When I read the lesson of the fig tree and in my heart was lead to John 15, I knew that He was asking for more of me. He wasn’t telling me I had a false appearance; he was telling me abide in me more! You can’t do what I’ve called you to do here with this ministry without me nor should you try!
When we abide in Him, our burdens and struggles and worries, they become the worlds and we become His. The only way to bear fruit, as he instructs in John 15, is to remain in Him. No branch can bear fruit without Him. Nor should we want to bear fruit without Him as we would then become like the fig tree. The more time we spend with Him, the more He prunes us and equips us.
You are not of the world.
We are to spend time with Him, get to know Him, understand Him, pursue Him, and love Him. It isn’t good enough to repeat it until we believe it. That is reserved for the world; the law of attraction, self-help affirmations, and the like. You are not of the world. That is not how we are called to walk in our faith and Spirit! We are called to trust Jesus as a person with our lives because He loved us first. Amen?
If anyone confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have come to know and believe the love that God has for us. God is love; whoever abides in love abides in God, and God in him. In this way, love has been perfected among us, so that we may have confidence on the day of judgment; for in this world we are just like Him.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. The one who fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:16-19
Thank you so much for reading today.
My prayer is that you receive the Word in your heart; that you walk away inspired and ready to tackle what you need to tackle. I pray you always remember that you are pursued, loved, adored and the Lord wants to show you what love looks like. Lord, I pray those that read this have faith as big as Mary, faith as big as the woman who touched your cloak, as big as can be. I pray that we pursue your heart and the Spirit works through us in our lives so we can love others as you love us.
I’d love to know your thoughts on the cursing of the fig tree! Why do you believe God cursed the fig tree? Do you feel there are areas in your life you need to put in God’s hands?