Mark 11:12-14 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 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. 14 And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.
Pastor Coty Pinckney explains, in a sermon “How to Bear Fruit”:
Let’s begin by looking more at the story of the cursing of the fig tree.
Jesus is hungry; he sees in the distance a tree full of leaves. Many trees produce leaves and flowers simultaneously, but the fruit always follows the leaves. The nourishment provided by the sun via the leaves is necessary for the production of fruit.
Figs appear to be an exception, though in reality they are not. Fig trees produce flowers simultaneously with their leaves. But the flowers are encased in a fleshy, protective coverings which have the same shape as ripe figs, giving the false appearance of fruit. The fruit doesn’t develop, however, until later. When pollination occurs inside these coverings (which requires the assistance of a special type of wasp), fruit develops. But the fruit, too, remains inside the fleshy covering. So the skin of a fig is actually the exterior, protective covering of the flower.
The tree that Jesus saw was unusual in two ways. First, it leafed out early. It looked to be especially well-watered by an underground spring or stream, and thus likely to produce abundant fruit. But when Jesus approached the tree, he found that it had neither ripe figs nor the precursors of figs, the fig-shaped flower modules. The tree appeared to be flourishing, but in reality it was producing nothing of value — and never would.
So Jesus curses the tree. He curses the appearance of fruitfulness without the reality.
He’ll elaborate on this later this same week, as recorded in John 15:
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. (NASB)
So God wants much more than the appearance of fruitfulness: He wants us to become like Christ; for that’s what it means to be fruitful. To display the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, — to be like Him as we depend upon him. That’s what this passage is about…….
……Jesus curses the fig tree as a severe rebuke to the religious people of His day. Is there a parallel for the religious people of our day? Are we in danger of emulating the fig tree: having the appearance of fruitfulness without real fruit?
Undoubtedly the answer is “Yes.” If we are to avoid becoming cursed fig trees, we must avoid at least four pitfalls:
- Relying on ritual: So often we think that because we perform a certain ceremony once in our life, or regularly every week, we are right before God. These Jewish religious leaders were perfect in their observance of rituals that God had specifically ordained. But they had no fruit; they did not take on the character of God. God rejected them, despite their outward obedience to religious rituals.
- Relying on numbers: Sometimes we’re tempted to think, “We’re fine! Our church is growing by leaps and bounds! God is blessing us!” But remember, in terms of growth, few churches can match the cults. Churches can grow simply by appealing to people’s natural desires – by telling people what they want to hear, by avoiding the hard parts of Scripture. No. Numbers do not provide evidence of fruitfulness.
- Relying on doctrinal purity: Others are tempted to think, “We’re fine because we hold to the ancient truths. That’s what it means to be fruitful.” Well, no. That’s not what it means to be fruitful. James tells us even demons are doctrinally pure in many ways. God chose His people to be His own precious possession, a people who will value Him above all else, a people who will be in living relationship to Him, as a vine is to its branches. Doctrinal purity is an absolute must for fruitfulness, but alone it is not sufficient.
- Relying on great emotion: Another group might say, “We’re so fruitful – just looked how everyone is moved in our services.” But great emotion is no sure sign of fruitfulness. We can arouse strong emotions in many ways unrelated to God; go to any rock concert for evidence.
Now, doctrinal purity, emotion, and God-ordained rituals are all vital parts of the Christian life; if these are absent, there will be no fruitfulness. And in many cases growth in numbers accompanies fruitfulness. But the passage today gives us these keys to true fruitfulness:
- Love the Word: both Christ himself and His spoken word, the Bible. This is the foundation for the true fruitfulness that comes from knowing Him.
- Have faith in God, that He will fulfill His promises, and therefore pray with power and free yourself to forgive.
- Focus on God in your worship, thereby worshiping in Spirit and in truth.
- Speak the truth in love, without political calculations; proclaim God’s truths whether they are popular or not, whether your listeners think this is what they need to hear nor not.
To read the entire sermon, please click here: