Have you ever read through the life of Jesus and ran into a situation where Jesus didn’t seem to be acting very Christ-like? But He is the Christ, so everything that He does is Christ-like? And He is sinless, so nothing that He did was sinful, but if you saw and heard someone do or say what He said or did you would say that they were sinning?
There’s a few instances where I’ve been challenged in that way. For example, I feel this way when I read about all of the name calling that Jesus did. You know, like broods of vipers, hypocrites, murderers, and perhaps the best one; sons of Hell.
Although it still makes me uncomfortable to read, I understand why He wasn’t sinning by doing it. His name calling wasn’t an emotional overreaction said from an annoyed or embittered or opinionated heart like we do.
He was speaking truthfully and sincerely from a heart motive of love that was trying to abruptly wake them up and get their attention. His intent was to motivate them to repentance and save them from themselves and where they were leading His people.
This morning, we’re going to learn together from one of the other instances that, honestly, makes me cringe. I know, I know, it shouldn’t, but I still have room to grow and perspectives that still need sanctified. 🙂
18 Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.
Now, we’re going to read this same account from Mark where we learn a bit more information that makes this encounter even more cringey for me. It wasn’t the season for figs. Jesus expected a fig tree to produce figs for Him out of season. Was Jesus just hangry? You know, angry because you’re hungry?
I’m not going to mention any names, but there are a few members of our family that have some pretty serious mood swings when they get hungry. Irritability and anxiety levels are high, patience runs low, their fuse grows pretty short. Can anyone else relate?
It seems so unfair to that fig tree to be cursed and to die because it wasn’t bearing fruit out of season, right?
Jesus wasn’t unfair and He didn’t sin by cursing and killing that tree. Jesus was making a very significant point by doing this in front of His disciples. Jesus did this intentionally and made sure that it was recorded in His word for us to learn from as well. Jesus was not hangry. Jesus was teaching us.
There is no such thing as an off season in the Kingdom of God! The gospel is always in season. When we stay rooted in Christ, we will never cease to bear the good fruits of the Spirit! When we live our lives in full trust and confidence in Him, not only will our leaves be green, but unlike that fig tree, we will also never fail to bear good fruit.
7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
8 They 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.”
And the alternative? If we try to live life apart from the Lord? Well, Jesus said it this way:
If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
So, which are we? Are we rooted and firmly connected in trust to Jesus? Are we branches full of good fruit or are we withered up firewood? Whichever you might be, today is a day where we can learn from the fig tree and choose to live fruitful lives as we place our roots and our trust in Jesus!
Let’s dig in and see what other revelation Jesus intended for us to receive from this encounter by zooming out a bit and seeing what happened before and after the withering of the fig tree.
Mark 11:11-26 (& Matthew 21:18-22)
11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
Keep this in mind. Jesus entered Jerusalem, went into the temple courts, looked around at everything, then went back to Bethany with the twelve disciples.
It’s really easy for us to look around, see problems, see injustices, see unrighteousness, and immediately react to it. Especially with social media, it’s so easy to vent, to shout out our grievances and opinions and to quickly rally together others to join in with our gripes and complaints. And… What does it accomplish?
I feel that to live a godly life that bears the fruits of the Spirit, we need to train and discipline ourselves to react less and respond more. React less and respond more.
Jesus looked around and saw all of the issues in His house, the temple. He didn’t react in His human emotion. He walked away from it, I believe that He took time to seek His Heavenly Father about how to respond to it, and then slept on it.
12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 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. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.
15 On reaching Jerusalem,
Jesus didn’t turn a blind eye to the mess that existed in His house. He didn’t just walk away from it. He “manned up” and took responsibility for it and did something to change it. Jesus didn’t react to it, He returned to respond to it. React less, respond more. This response leads to another interesting thing that Jesus did that doesn’t seem Christlike by initial appearances. 🙂
Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them,
Yeah, you just don’t get high quality teaching like that in the church these days, do you? This little phrase makes me laugh. He made quite the scene and drove out all those taking advantage of God’s people and making money from their worship in the temple. And as He taught them…
he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’?
This first phrase is a quote from here:
1 This is what the Lord says:
and do what is right,
for my salvation is close at hand
and my righteousness will soon be revealed.
2 Blessed is the one who does this—
the person who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it,
and keeps their hands from doing any evil.”
3 Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say,
“The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.”
And let no eunuch complain,
“I am only a dry tree.”
Remember that fig tree? Jesus wasn’t hangry. He knew exactly what He was doing and I believe had this prophetic word of Isaiah clearly in mind after leaving the temple that night. I believe it was an object lesson revealing this word. A house of prayer for all nations and for all people! Not to go into detail, but a eunuch was an individual who had been made unable to have children; unable to bear fruit naturally.
4 For this is what the Lord says:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me
and hold fast to my covenant—
5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that will endure forever.
6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord
to minister to him,
to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
and who hold fast to my covenant—
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations.”
Then Jesus went on…
But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”
18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
19 When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.
20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”  (KJV) 26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.
There is no off season when it comes to the gospel! There is never a time when the good news about Jesus and God’s salvation will not bear good fruit! There is never a season when faith in God will fail to produce the goodness of God! In every season, we need God’s word, we need prophecy, we need hope, and we need courage to stand for what is right!
We must be ones who bind ourselves to the Lord, who maintain justice and do what is right, who hold fast to His covenant that He has made with us, who choose to do what pleases Him. We must choose not to react in our flesh, but to respond by the leading of the Holy Spirit within us. Then, we will be a people who never fail to bear good fruit, the fruits of the Spirit. We will lead others to His salvation and into the baptism of His Holy Spirit.
Paul wrote this in his letter to Timothy, a young leader in the church. This morning, I believe that God is speaking this same charge to you and I.
2 Timothy 4:1-5
1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
Keep your head in all situations. React less, respond more. Respond by the leading of the Holy Spirit and in a way that puts the word of God into action.
Endure hardship. The promise is that our lives will be ones that bear fruit even through seasons of drought.
Do the work of an evangelist. Though we are not all evangelists, we are all called to evangelize. Tell people about Jesus and the free gift of salvation available to them.
Discharge all of the duties of your ministry. Just as Jesus intentionally cursed the fig tree and flipped some tables, He intentionally created you on purpose and for a purpose. You were born for such a time as this. There is a work that Jesus wants to do not only in you, but also through you. You have the giftings and the resources that you need to accomplish all that God is calling you to do!
Whatever He is calling you to, do it with all your heart and hold nothing back from Him. The Greek word for “discharge” is plērophoreō which means to fully accomplish. In other words, live an intentional, full, and fruitful life as God works through you.
There is no off season in the Kingdom of God! It’s always the right time to bear the fruits of the Spirit. Be prepared and always expect to experience the goodness of God as we respond to whatever circumstances He leads us into!