Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Adamant Fig Tree

A question came to me the other night concerning why Jesus cursed the fig tree post-triumphal entry in Mark 11.

While I succeeded in providing an adequate answer on the spot, I knew further research was in store to suffice my mental impatience/eagerness.

So today at work I managed to uncover a few fresh nuggets of insight…

Like several other instances in the Bible, the account of Jesus scolding the fig tree appears rather random, maybe not ‘Prayer of Jabez’ random, but haphazard nonetheless…at least at first glance.

But boy, how sweet and simple it is to perform a quick front and backcheck when reading the Scriptures.

A frontcheck reveals Jesus was on his way to cleaning out the ‘temple rats.’

A backcheck shows Jesus had just entered Jerusalem on a ‘virgin colt’ (had never been ridden before) on route to the temple for what would be his final week of life/mission on earth.

Before Jesus approaches the temple, the Bible says in v. 12, that Jesus was hungry and noticed a fig tree in leaf. He searched for fruit, but could not find any, thus prompting Him to curse the tree: “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”

Now while this may seem harsh, after digging a little, I’m finding Jesus’ purpose for His ‘outburst’ was nothing short of brilliant.

Jesus was and is the Master of symbolism. He most likely cursed the tree, not so much for not baring fruit as compared to not recognizing His identity. Jesus was with God when the tree was made, correct? So regardless if the right conditions were in place for that tree to bear fruit, the fact is the tree should have had something to provide the King of Kings and Lord of Lords as He made His way to clearing the temple.

Think about it. God made the tree for His glory, in likeness to everything else created by His hand. Nature gives glory to God, so we can deduce that the tree was created to give pleasure to God. Sorry, for the ‘duh’ moment, but ‘bear’ with me (pun intended)…

In the case of the fruit-bearing tree, its mission was to...what? That’s right! BEAR FRUIT!!!

Now I know what you’re hummin’ to yourself: The Bible says in v. 13 that “it was not the season for figs.”

But that’s besides the point.

The fact is Jesus needed strength and fulfillment at that particular moment in time, not from just any tree, but from 'that' tree. The Bible bluntly states: Jesus was hungry. Not mildly famished, but ravenous!

Quickly flashing back again to Creation, we find Jesus involved in the very making of the tree. So it's safe to say that no matter what the circumstances were for that tree, no matter what had happened to the tree in the past, the fact is it did not serve or please Jesus when the opportunity presented itself. It did not acknowledge Him. It did not register nor connect with Him. And perhaps most critically, it did not provide Him with what it was created for (i.e. it forsook its original design).

Now it’s interesting to note the correlation between the adamant tree and the people of Israel - particularly the ones who cried out “Hosanna” during the triumphal entry. So many people failed to recognize and identify the true nature of the Messiah when He was right under their nose. Tragically, most were more concerned with their own sense of liberty and freedom from tyranny, that they completely missed a golden opportunity to know the full reason why Christ had arrived!

So on a symbolic level, we can see the cursed fig tree and the people of Israel in the same light in the sense both failed to recognize/acknowledge the identity of Jesus as Savior and Son of God - the very reason Christ came to earth.

But this is only part one.

Upon making his presence known in the temple, the Bible tells us Jesus and His disciples made a return run back to the stubborn fig tree. Peter observes and points out the remarkable transformation of the tree as having withered to the root.

Jesus, seizing the moment, then gives his disciples what would be one of His final faith lessons. He charges them to not just believe, but believe BIG - having the faith of 'anything is possible in Jesus' name.'

V. 23- "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him."

Jesus then interweaves the power of prayer with the illustration, reminding the disciples whatever is asked in His name shall be given.

V. 25 - "And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."

So what began as a curse eventually metamorphosed into a blessing. Pretty cool, eh?

In short, there's much to take away when we consider the adamant fig tree. For instance, if we forsake the faith and pursue a lifestyle we weren't made for (whether it's some form of debauchery, intentionally walking in unforgiveness, idolatry...whatever)  we will fade away and wither...like the fig tree.  Of course, there are other examples we could elaborate on, but bottom line: if we live a life cut off from the root of faith, we deprive ourselves of bearing fruit. And isn't that why God made us? To glorify and worship Him with what He has given us (i.e. our existence = identity, purpose, calling, mission, character, etc.)? To offer Him our fruit?

In closing, ask yourself: if Jesus spontaneously approached you, would you respond like the tree, and those who cried "Hosanna"....or would you respond with real, radical faith and give Him your everything?

I know for me...if I'm a fig tree, I want to bear as many figs as I can for the glory of God...and while I'm at it, provide others with food for thought...

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