Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries
"The Fruitless Fig Tree"
Mar. 6, 2018
Read Mark 11:12-25
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.
~ Mark 11:13 (ESV)
This is one of the odder miracles in the New Testament. Why was Jesus looking for fruit if it wasn't the right season? And when He found none, why did He blame the tree and curse it? Was this some sort of divine temper tantrum?
Actually, no. Common fig trees produce at least two crops of fruit. The "breba crop" appears in the spring, with the first leaves. You could say it isn't really a proper fig crop at all; the breba figs aren't that great, and a lot of people don't bother to harvest them. The main crop comes later and will taste much better.
But Jesus was hungry. So He went looking for the early breba figs, which should have been there if the leaves were out -- and there was nothing. Oops!
That's a bad, bad sign. A common fig tree that doesn't produce brebas around Passover isn't going to produce real figs at the right time either. The early failure is a sign of the much greater failure to come. And Jesus knew that. The words He said confirmed the disaster that was already on the way: "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And within a day, the tree was withered up.
There are things like brebas in our own lives, too. Every day we live our lives in Jesus, growing in faith, and receiving His gifts of Word and Sacrament. And every so often the challenge comes -- are we producing the fruits that show that Christ is living in us? Do we have figs, or just leaves?
To be sure, most of the fruit we Christians produce is like breba figs -- small, relatively tasteless, not particularly good quality. Jesus must be really hungry if He wants our fruit! And yet He does. He is. And He rejoices when He finds an early fig, even a breba -- because it shows that the Holy Spirit is living in us, doing God's will through us. It shows that we belong to Jesus -- and one day, we will rejoice together with Him, at the real harvest time.
THE PRAYER: Father, make me fruitful through Your Holy Spirit's work. Amen.
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Remember a time when you were very, very hungry. How did food taste when you finally had some?