Read Psalm 23, Proverbs 30, Ezekiel 37:1-14
This might surprise you but there is a bunch of stuff in the Bible that I don’t understand. Symbols and events, timelines and theology, there are just things that don’t make a lot of sense to me. A couple of days ago we read in Proverbs, “Don’t answer a fool according to his folly,” and the very next verse, “Answer a fool according to his folly.” (Proverbs 26:4-5) I’m telling you, I just don’t have an answer for that. There’s a little event that happens in the last days of Jesus’s life before the cross that has always perplexed me. In Mark 11 and in Matthew 21, Jesus is on his way back into Jerusalem after the Palm Sunday Parade and He sees a fig tree. He decides to have a snack, finds no figs, and curses the tree. Don’t get in a tizzy. Jesus is not using bad words. He just says to the tree, “No one will ever eat fruit from you again.” Matthew says it dried up immediately. Mark says it was the next day. The point is, Jesus is frustrated with a fruitless fig tree and He puts the whammy on it, even though, Matthew says, it is not the season for figs.
Tell me what you make up about that? Is this the humanity of Jesus coming out? Is the anxiety about the days ahead and the cross at the end of the week starting to get to Him? Is He giving Judas a subtle warning about what happens when you cross the Christ? (See what I did there?) Does He just have a thing against figs, like when the first George Bush cursed broccoli? Well, I refer you to the first sentence. There is a bunch of stuff in the Bible I don’t know. Some have said that the fig tree here, as it does in lots of places, represents Israel and Jesus is passing judgment on Israel. I’m not sure about that. (Here’s a little exegetical side note. Many of the 19th and 20th-century commentators operated with subtle anti-semitism. We have to be careful about reading that back into the New Testament.) Jesus was a Jew. He loved the Jews. His ministry was primarily to the Jews. So, I’m not sold on a major, wholesale indictment on the Jews.
What I do believe Jesus was against was a group or an individual, a church, a denomination, a person writing a blog at 5 AM, you name it, that puts on a good show but really fails to bear fruit. There are a lot of places where the measure of life in a Christ-follower is the amount of fruit they bear. John 15:2, “The Father cuts off every branch that doesn’t bear fruit and He prunes the ones that do so that they will bear even more.” Fruit-bearing seems like a pretty big deal, whether in the church or in the life of a disciple. Putting on a show, having a lot of green leaves, like carrying my 5 pound Bible around, spouting out Bible verses aimed at everybody else, posing religious memes on FaceBook, without really having the life of Jesus in our hearts seems to get on His nerves. And, as Doris’s dad used to say, “That ain’t no good!”
Whatever else this story means, I think it means we are supposed to be fruit producers. That’s what Jesus wants from us. That’s how we know there is life in us. And what is the fruit? Well, among other things, it is a life that reflects the kindness and goodness of God to all the world. Paul says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:23-24, at the end I’ll give you a tip to remember that list.) So, one meaning for me of the fig tree fiasco is, “If you want to please God, act like it.” And just to really confuse you…in the Ezekiel passage we read today, I am reminded that no matter how dried up and fruitless my life had been, God can breathe life back into it at any time. Wow, there’s some pretty good stuff on those parts of the Bible I don’t understand.
Remember what we are doing to bear fruit.
- Love God’s Word today. Read your Bible.
- Love God’s Presence today. Pray.
- Love God’s People today. Do something kind for someone.
- Love God’s Church this week. Get involved.
- Love God’s Creation this week. Do something helpful for the planet.
See you tomorrow. We are nearing the end of our 40 days. Watch the little video I posted and MEDITATE on some part of this story today.
Bonus tip: 🙂 The Fruit of the Spirit list is 9 words. The first 3 are 1 syllable, the second 3 are 2, and the last 3 are 3. It helps me remember.