Mark 11:12-14 NIV1576
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.
Mark 11:20-24 NIV 1577
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[a] 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.
Mark 13:28-31 NIV 1581
28 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it[a] is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
Prayer: Lord God, be our Teacher today. Send Your Spirit to teach us the truths that You would have for us today. Help our hearts to be good soil to receive this Word implanted and to go from here producing fruit – thirty, sixty, a hundred-fold. We make our prayer in Jesus’ name and for His sake. Amen.
- Summarize what we have been doing in Mark for the last several weeks and the readings for the week.
- What a strange event in the life and in the ministry of Jesus, at least from our perspective. Why would you curse a fig tree that had no figs because it wasn’t the season for figs?
- What’s going on here, Jesus? What are you doing? We’re accustomed to Jesus teaching in parables.
- We read them, and we study them, and we gather those truths that Jesus has laid out there in those stories.
- Today Jesus is teaching his disciples and us some truths that are very important for us to understand.
- Let’s put this scene in its context since we are reading sections of Mark and skipping others. In the beginning of Mark 11 is when Jesus has entered Jerusalem – typically we call this Palm Sunday
- This is Monday morning following the first day of the week when Jesus has entered Jerusalem in what has been a triumphal entry. And the crowds have lined the street. “Hosanna, to the Son of David! Blessed be the name of the Lord!”
- It’s been a marvelous moment in the life and ministry of Jesus, a moment of acclamation, a moment of acceptance.
- It is a moment for His disciples who would perhaps be thinking, “Ah, the corner has turned and now we’re going to see some of these things that we’ve been expecting out of this Messiah.
- But they don’t understand what’s coming later in the week. Jesus does.
- Jesus recognizes that that praise will turn to jeering and to hooting, that those “Hosannas” will become “Crucify Him! Give us Barabbas!” by the end of the week.
- He recognizes that, and He’s tried to prepare His disciples for that eventuality and at this point they are not grasping it. And so, they walk to Jerusalem.
- Jesus takes His disciples to the fig tree outside Jerusalem.
- No doubt He was interested in finding something to eat.
- He found a fig tree in leaf. Well that still doesn’t help us with the fig tree, does it?
- There is a slight problem: PAUSE– With the variety of figs that grow in Palestine, you get two pickings, you get two harvests.
- There is an early harvest that grows off of last year’s shoot. And guess when it comes? It comes with the leaf lots of fluff – little fruit. So, seeing a fig tree in full leaf in Palestine, you would expect to find some figs that are small and pithy.
- Yet, later, in the summer, through the summer, you have the large, wonderful figs that we think of in the market and find and they come and they harvest it in August and early September.
- Remember, this is the spring. It’s the season for the old growth figs, the small, pithy ones. Except they’re not there.
- Jesus takes His disciples and they’re expecting to find the same thing too, figs—small figs at least, except they’re not there. Jesus’ condemnation is swift and unmistakable. “May no one eat fruit from you again.” Because if that fig tree bears no figs now, it will not bear any later. It’s barren for the season. Jesus says, “You’re barren from now on.”
- What’s His point?
- Jesus is taking His disciples to Jerusalem, to the temple, and there they’ll find a temple in full bore of activity preparing for the Passover that takes place at the end of that week.
- As we remember, the temple is bustling with religious activity and people buying and selling for the purpose of obtaining the needed sacrifices for Passover.
- People come to Jerusalem from all over the Roman world. Jerusalem is four, perhaps five times its normal population this week for people coming to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem.
- They’re going to buy their sacrifice there as the Jewish law requires.
- And so, the zealous businessmen have set up their stalls and their money changing tables right there at the temple. How convenient is that? “This is all about the sacrifice.
- The activity in the Temple is all about economics and making a quick profit.
- There is no activity in the Temple about faith and prayer – it is all fluff – it is all leaves and there is no fruit.
- Ponder this as we continue —Are our churches today similar? – all fluff and no prayer?
- On his way to the cross, Jesus pauses to curse a fig tree. Walking past a fig tree in leaf, he notes that the tree bears no fruit. Mark comments that “it wasn’t the season for figs”. Refusing to praise the tree’s foliage, Jesus curses the tree.
- Why curse a tree for having no figs when it’s not the season for the mature quality sweet figs?
- The next day the fig tree that Jesus cursed—even though it was not the season for fruit—had withered.
- What does this parable about the fig tree mean to us? It is a good question.
- A district superintendent told a story about a church that was, like most United Methodist churches, comprised mostly of older folks.
- A member’s granddaughter brought a friend with her to church—a friend of a different race from everybody else in the congregation.
- The next week the grandmother received a call from a fellow member of the congregation. “I hope that your granddaughter will not bring her little friend back next Sunday. It’s not that I am prejudiced, it’s just that I am sure the child and her family would be happier elsewhere.”
- The little girl never visited the church again, nor did the grandmother or her granddaughter.
- The deep-seated racism and prejudice of the small church had come to the surface. The granddaughter and the grandmother exposed the depth of prejudice that was in the congregation.
- The granddaughter got the message: it’s not the season for harvesting fruit.
- Less than one year after this event, the superintendent had the sad task of announcing that church’s closure.
- “Jesus isn’t nice to a church that refuses to be his church,” said the superintendent, shaking her head in sorrow.
- Let’s not miss the message of this story:
- Let’s not miss those opportunities in front of us every day to grow faith and grow in those works of faithfulness. Remember the parable of the fig tree!
- Let’s not miss those opportunities to extend ourselves for the kingdom of God and the good of other people around us. Remember the parable of the fig tree!
- Let’s not miss an opportunity to go out of our way perhaps and extend the good of the kingdom of God towards someone who might make us a little bit uncomfortable because they’re so vastly unlike us.Remember the parable of the fig tree!
- Let’s not miss the opportunities that God puts in front of us to step away from personal peace and affluence and spend ourselves for His honor and glory just a little bit for someone else’s good. And we remember the parable of the fig tree.
- Aren’t we aware that as Jesus searches He finds fruit and not just leaves.
- But it’s not the season for figs! And isn’t the purpose of the church and its ministry to care for our members and their needs?
- Jesus implies that no fig tree is planted for shade. “You will know them by their fruit” (Matt 7:16 CEB).
- As Jesus and his disciples walk past the dead tree, Jesus urges, “Have faith in God!” explicitly relating fruitfulness to faithfulness(Mark 11:22 CEB).
- We ask ourselves — Why would Jesus demand fruit, even in an age when a conversation about race is “out of season”? Jesus must have faith in us to believe that with his help, we could become fruitful.
- We ask the question: Do we lack faith that Jesus can make us fruitful?
- To us has been given the truth about God through the brown skinned Jew from Nazareth—truth that we, through our faithful words and deeds, are commanded to share with the world around us.
- Creation begins with a God who preaches to the formless void: “God said, “It is good!” and all of creation is good.
- Jesus has said:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. God has sent me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed.
- Christ is the model announcement. We don’t work alone. Christ wants us to succeed at our fruitful tasks of sharing the Good News — helping us even in our weakness to be fruitful.
- Our assignment as is to invite, and welcome people into “the kingdom God has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races,” as we said in our Service of Baptism two weeks ago
- Thanks be to God
- Closing Prayer: Father, we ask You to deposit Your Word in our hearts today. Help us see those opportunities in front of us this very week to do good, to demonstrate both faith and faithfulness. Make us like Christ for His honor and glory and for our good. And we pray in His name, amen.