DAILY DISCIPLINE #173
By Colleen Donahue
As we look at the verses in Matthew 21:18-19, Jesus had finished a very long and eventful day beginning with a triumphant entry into Jerusalem. It had been an emotional, energetic day as He confronted the money changers and dove sellers in the temple. Then He had walked a few miles back to Bethany for the evening. Now, the next day, He was walking back into Jerusalem and feeling very hungry when he saw a beautiful fig tree that looked ripe for the picking. When a fig tree was in full leaf it meant it was also full of fruit. But upon inspection there was no fruit for the hungry Lord and he cursed the tree.
Fig trees were the symbol of fertility, peace, and prosperity and the fruit had two seasons. They were ripe in June and then again in September. Since this was Passover time it would have been April and therefore not time for the fruit yet. So why would Jesus curse the tree for not bearing fruit in April? This incident always seemed to me out of character for Him but it provided a great warning to his wide-eyed disciples and now to us. The question it raises is .....
Are You Bearing Fruit For God?
Studies continued from Matthew 21: 18-19 / Mark 11: 12-14, 20-21
A Lesson in Fig Trees
The answer as to why Jesus would curse a fig tree for not bearing fruit in April requires learning a little more about the fig tree. The fig tree has the unique characteristic of being in full flower, full leaf and full fruit all at the same time. Therefore when Jesus saw the tree in full leaf in April it was indeed reasonable to expect the fruit and He was hungry.
Here's an analogy from today. Let's say you are on a long trip and very hungry. You see a Cafe along the road and the neon sign says, "Open - Good Food!" You pull your car into the parking lot, go in, and sit down to read the menu. But when the waitress comes to take your order she announces they have no food!
Now you have a glimpse of what Jesus felt to find a tree in full leaf without fruit! Our Lord never missed a good opportunity to teach an important truth with dramatic action and here was another opportunity.
Day 1- What was Jesus trying to teach? If the fig tree could represent a man, Jesus was seeing not only a man without fruit but a man that looked like there should be fruit. This aberrant tree is a symbol for religious pretentiousness. It is a good picture of the man or woman who "talks a great game" but doesn't play it. They have a lot of surface appearance but no depth. What did Jesus call this religious pretentiousness?
Day 2- In their immediate setting this fig tree represented the actual state of the Jewish people. Why did Jesus call them hypocrites?
Matthew 23: 13-33
Israel, for all appearances was seriously religious, but to the searching eye of our Lord there was no fruit. There was therefore no need to delay their judgment.
Matthew 21: 19b
"If humanity needed light, strength, peace and consolations, Israel could no longer give them. Israel was hereafter to be a blasted and withered tree on the wayside of history." Canon Liddon
Day 3- Just the day before there had been Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem. There was a crowd of people, palm branches and hosannas but in a few more days these same people would call for his death. The temple was full of religious activity that was a cover up for exploitation and profit. Jesus saw right through it and took immediate action.
Matthew 21: 12-13
Day 4- The fig tree may represent some of the Christian churches of today that are full of pretense and activity but have no real value to mankind or to God. These churches have a reputation for being alive but what does God say?
Revelations 3: 1-3
Day 5- Ultimately the message of the fig tree comes down to every individual. We are meant to bear fruit for God that nourishes man. How is that to happen?
John 15: 4-5 , 10
What will good fruit look like?
Galatians 5: 22-23
Day 6- Good fruit is ONLY formed by God within a person who is wholly cooperating and obeying Him.
John 15:5-8 / Hebrews 12:11
Day 7- This good fruit will always have these characteristics......
A. It won't be defective because it is the product of Heavenly wisdom
Ephesians 5:9 / James 3:17
B. It will be produced in all the periods of life including old age.
Psalm 92: 12-14
C. Its perennial growth will be without fail and will not only feed others but it will be useful for their healing.
Day 8- What graces will result if there is fruit in our life?
Romans 5: 3-4 / 2 Corinthians 8:7 / 2 Peter 1:5-7
And who should benefit from it?
Day 9- We either live (abide) in God and let Him produce fruit that feeds and nourishes men, or we live by our own efforts and try to produce our version of God's real fruit. Self-made fruit is always bad and has these harmful characteristics:
A. It's bitter - Deuteronomy 32: 32-33
B. It's natural rather than supernatural - Isaiah 5:2
As with this farmer we can do all the right things but still have bad fruit brought about by our own efforts
C. It's selfish - Hosea 10:1
Fruit we produce is meant to feed and nourish others.
D. It's deceitful - Hosea 10:13
E. It's corrupt - Matthew 7: 15-20
F. It's fleshly - Galatians 5: 19-21
Whether it's a Christian or a non Christian trying to produce Godly characteristics, without God it will end up bursting forth in one or more of these characteristics mentioned in Galatians 5:19-21.
Day 10- Jesus wants us to be very clear that profession without practice is condemned. Producing no fruit or bad fruit is condemned. What is the judgment?
Matthew 3:10 / Matthew 7:19 / John 15:6 / Hebrews 6:8
Will you stop trying to produce your own fruit and cooperate with God?
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