Mark 11:12-14 New Revised Standard Version
On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.
What? Huh? Repeat that. That’s pretty much the typical response when folks encounter these few verses nestled into the Holy Week narrative, just after Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
Fruit tree growers know that ordinarily a small amount of fruit ripens prior to the main crop. It is referred to as the first ripe fruit or the firstfruits. When Jesus approached the tree, it was the time of the firstfruits of figs, but it wasn’t quite time for the main harvest. Perhaps what we read is that the particular tree on which Christ expected to find figs was barren, because it had no figs on it at all. It did not fulfill its purpose, and as any diligent tree farmer would know to do, Jesus simply eliminated an unproductive tree.
Our scripture ends with ‘And the disciples heard it’.
Jesus used this experience to teach His disciples—and us today—that the outward appearance doesn't count. In our journey of faith and life, many things, on the surface, look appealing as they attempt to masquerade as the real thing.
Our personal lives can look like “in leaf”, like that fig tree that wasn’t producing fruit but looked like it was just right. Our leaves may look like those of a supermom or rockstar dad, a strong leader, a winner, a perfect family, an A-team Christian with an overstuffed schedule of ministry activities. But the root may be withered. There may be no fruit of holiness and no intimacy with God. Over time—our leaves may even fool us. They may just start to look normal.
This….parable, offers us a glimpse of how Christ invites us to live lives that are active and that offer daily work and service that are centrally focused and themed on kingdom building. May we be bold enough to search ourselves and invite God to search our lives for places we can produce fruit fit for our King.
Pastor Michael Williams