“On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard it.”- Mark 11:12-14.
“If there is a special thunderbolt anywhere, it is these hypocrites who whine about love to Christ, and bow down at the shrine of mammon.”- Charles Spurgeon, Nothing but Leaves, published in Spurgeon’s Sermons, Volume 8, pg. 182.
In the midst of Holy Week, i tend to look over this little nugget of three-verse goodness. We usually hit the high points, don’t we? The triumphal entry, cleansing of the temple, Judas’ betrayal, last supper, crucifixion, and resurrection are all staples, but the weird incident with the fig tree, what’s that all about? Is Jesus just really ticked off because he failed to get his fig fix for the day? Well, no, not really. Perhaps the greatest and most obvious lesson i can take away from this encounter is that profession and boasting are not the measure of truth; fruit is. For if what i claim is not backed up with action and practical discipleship and holiness fleshed out in daily living, then what i profess about being a Christian just isn’t true. The fig tree boasted and professed by its leaves, even out of season, to have produced figs, for leaves on a fig tree signal that either fruit has already arrived prior to the coming of leaves or came with the arrival of the leaves. Where there are fig leaves there should be figs. Where there is true profession of faith in Christ, there are practical examples of godly living and discipleship manifested in the believer’s life. The fig tree incident teaches us the opposite. When there is a profession of faith that isn’t true, there will be no godliness produced, and Jesus curses such people. I love Spurgeon’s words! If i am reading them correctly, he warns us that there is a special reserve of thunderbolts for such people. There is another level of judgment and wrath, a special stock of heavenly anger, stored up for trees like this, for those who claim the name of Christ but who deny Him with their actions. The truth stands; we cannot say we are truly devoted to Jesus and have truly tasted of His goodness while at the same time making a practice of kneeling before other gods. Now, looking for fruit in our lives can be difficult and tricky, for we don’t always see epic fruit. Unless you’re Billy Graham (and if you are, thanks for reading my blog), we don’t always see droves of people coming to know Jesus because of our witness. We don’t always love our brothers and sisters the way we should. We don’t always fight our sin, and a many times our sin looks real tasty to us. There will be, however, some measure of discipleship, some measure of denying self, some measure of outward signs of inward repentance. There will be some love of Christ and others. If you and me are o.k. with our sin, o.k. with not fighting it, o.k. with simply submitting to it, if we do not earnestly pursue godliness, if we do not repent and turn to Christ, if there is no love manifested towards other while at the same time we profess to others our love for Jesus, the Bible simply calls us liars, and there is a damning curse in store for us.
So this should cause me to question and search. Can i see in my own heart evidences of grace? Can i see a desire to know Him, to love Him, to follow Him? Can i see in my life evidences of grace? Do i love others, have i followed Him externally, and am i seeking to do His commands? What areas of my life am i professing Christ but not following Him? In what areas of my life is He calling me to discipleship and i have stood still or pursued the opposite? If i am honest, i am often overwhelmed by my lack of love for Christ and love for sin. But there is still hope. For the time of cursing has not yet come. There is mercy and grace to be had in Christ. For Christians, we must repent of specific areas where we have boasted in Christ and have failed to follow Him. We must pray for fruit and pray for Him to work. We must cast ourselves again on His grace and mercy, and then we must follow. For non-believers that masquerade as believers, they must seek grace for the first time and realize that they have deceived themselves and those around them, and then they must cling to Christ. This issue of figs and fruit is a necessity this Holy Week. Perhaps one of the messages of this week is that Jesus can, and does, make wonderful, fruitful fruit trees out of barren, worthless ones by His life, death, and resurrection. But Holy Week also reminds us that there is another time coming when He will not bring transformation but utter catastrophe for those not in Him. Spurgeon says it best…
“The more you profess, the more is expected of you: and if you do not yield it, the more just the condemnation when you shall be left to stand forever withered by the curse of Christ. O men and brethren! let us tremble before the heart-searching eye of God; but let us still remember that grace can make us fruitful yet. The way of mercy is still open. Let us apply to the wounds of Christ this morning. If we have never begun, let us begin now. Now let us throw our arms about the Saviour, and take him to be ours; and, having done this, let us seek divine grace, that for the rest of our lives we may work for God. Oh! I do hope to do more for God, and I hope you will. O Holy Spirit! work in us mightily, for in thee is our fruit found! Amen.” Charles Spurgeon, Nothing but Leaves, published in Spurgeon’s Sermons, Volume 8, pg. 186.