Thursday, 3 November 2011

When Jesus Cursed A Fruit Tree, Spiritual Lessons

fig tree figsIn one of the most of the seemingly bewildering stories found within the Gospels, we meet the Christ cursing a fig tree on His way with His disciples into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:22). Christ was hungry. A fig would do. Alas! No figs! Just leaves! By the next morning the fig was dead to the roots.

Is this just a bizarre story about the Christ's power over nature? Not quite. It's actually one of the more profound stories about the Kingdom of God and what is means to be in it. The fig tree is often used as a picture of God's Chosen People, Old Covenant Israel (Luke 13:6-7). Israel was chosen by God to bear fruit for God by being a light to the nations. But they hadn't. After God had redeemed them from Egypt, He renewed the Covenant with them that He had established with Abraham. Unlike the establishment of this Covenant, Abraham's descendents were now a nation not merely a clan. To this Covenant Nation God them Laws and Ceremonies designed to help them be "a light to the nations".
Isaiah 42:6 "I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,"
Instead of these glorious laws being the basis for Israel's witness to the nations, Israel lost sight of its mission and regarded the laws as the reason why God had chosen them (forgetting that He gave them these Lawsafter He had redeemed them). The point of the laws - to show the nations that God is "good" and "faithful" God, became lost. The point of the ceremonies became lost on Israel - they were all anticipatory displays of the Christ and His coming work - and instead, Israel incorrectly felt that these ceremonies (involving animal sacrifices) were about purifying them from blame. All of this took place despite the prophets warning Israel that it was happening-
Is. 1:11 "What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
says the LORD;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of well-fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
or of lambs, or of goats.
Israel was called to bear 'fruit' - just like a fig tree. Thisfruit was meant to show the nations who their 'Gardener' was. This fruit was meant to draw the nations to God. Israel was supposed to have been a light to the nations, teaching them how to know and love God and each other.
Isaiah 49:6 he says:
"It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth."
When Jesus came to that fig tree it was a picture of God Incarnate coming to Israel to inspect their fruit. What the Christ found was what the prophets also found.
Jeremiah 8:13 When I would gather them, declares the LORD,
there are no grapes on the vine,
nor figs on the fig tree;
even the leaves are withered,
and what I gave them has passed away from them."
God calls His people His "planting" (Isa. 5:7). He expects His plantings to bear fruit - that is, to be a witness to the nations of God, His wonders, His ways, His will and His Word. The goal of this witness is that people may come to know the Lord and join in His program of redeeming the world through Christ.

What does God do for His spiritual fig trees? He waters them. He nourishes them. He shines on them. He shields them. He sprays them. He prunes off their dead wood. And He harvests them. But when Christ came to Israel He found no fruit. They were living without love for God. They were treating people without love or respect. They were misrepresenting God to the nations. In short, they had not broken God's heart as well as His laws.

The cursing of the fig tree by Christ was typological (symbollic) of God ending His Old Covenant with unfruitful, unfaithful Israel. Instead of Israel being God's fig tree to the nations, Christ would be model Israel- the truly fruitful and faithful Servant of the Lord. He would shine His Father's light to the nations - through His New Covenant people, the New Israel of God: the Church(Gal. 6:16).

That's why we must be a spiritual fig tree always bearing the fruit of Christ for the nations (Matt. 28:18-19). To do this, we take steps of Gospel faith and bathe our efforts in prayer.
Matt. 21:21 And Jesus answered them, "Truly, I say to you, if you have faithand do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and thrown into the sea,' it will happen.
Matt. 21:22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith."
Thus, a heart to shine the love of God through sharing the Gospel with all people is the kind of fruit that honour God and shows a visiting Christ that you are truly the planting of the Lord.
Father, no fig tree bears fruit from just one branch. Lord help us to be connected to You and to each other. Help us to bear Gospel fruit for You. Help us to shine Your love to all the people in our community and beyond. Give us more fruit and help us as a church community to bear the fruit of love for each other, and for You and for our community, in Jesus' Name, Amen.
Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ps. Andrew

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