Tuesday, April 10, 2012
His cousin John the Baptist came before Jesus with a clear and powerful message, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” In other words, walk the talk. If you claim to be a God-follower – a disciple of Jesus Christ - then it should show in the way you live.
Jesus amplified this lesson using a fig tree. “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… In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots” (Mark 11:12-14, 20).
At first, this seems rather extreme. Most of us get a little cranky when we’re hungry, but we don’t go around cursing vending machines that don’t release products when we plug in our coins. Oh, well, maybe we do. But anyway, back to the story.
The reason Jesus responded so forcefully was not because He was hungry for figs, but because of His holy yearning to see spiritual fruit. Fig trees aren’t supposed to bear fruit until June, when they have fully leafed out. It was unusual that this tree already had leaves in April; a sign it should also have fruit. But it didn’t. It was false advertising. And that’s the point Jesus was trying to make.
The Scribes, Pharisees, and teachers of the law were all about show – wearing long tasseled robes, praying public prayers, elaborate ceremonial cleansing, and prescribing 613 laws God had not commanded. They didn’t do these things because of a consuming love for God or their fellow man; they made a show of religion because they were preening in their own glory. And Jesus made it clear that’s not what God wants.
The fruits of the Spirit are listed in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. If we have the “leaves” of Christianity, those are the characteristics that should be growing in our life. This can sound intimidating. After all, who can be all that? Nobody. That’s why they’re the fruit of the Spirit. We can’t squeeze them out by our own power. But if we are rooted in Christ, He will make them grow.
I like what Jeremiah 17:7-8 says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (emphasis mine).
If we trust God and put our confidence in Him; if we drink in the Word and put down roots of faith – we will not fear hard times; our leaves will be beautiful; and we will bear fruit!
Like our own little Miss Figgy pictured above, we may start out slowly (last year she bore her very first fig). But the more we grow in the Lord, the more fruit He will produce in our lives. We will fulfill our purpose and God will be as delighted with us as my husband and I are with Miss Figgy’s progress. Even more so.