Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

You and the Fig Tree

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You and the Fig Tree

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You and the Fig Tree

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Can we know why Jesus destroyed the fig tree that was not bearing fruit when we know it was not the season for figs to bear, and are there lessons about the outcome that we can learn and take to heart?

Sermon Notes

Have you ever read a scripture that totally puzzled you?  Come on…you know there are MANY in the Bible.  Today I’d like to talk to you about one of those stories that was discussed a couple of times in the Gospels.  We will be talking about the Fig Tree and what it could mean to you.  This story is found in Matthew 21:18-22 Matthew 21:18-22 [18] Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungry. [19] And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said to it, Let no fruit grow on you henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. [20] And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away! [21] Jesus answered and said to them, Truly I say to you, If you have faith, and doubt not, you shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if you shall say to this mountain, Be you removed, and be you cast into the sea; it shall be done. [22] And all things, whatever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.
American King James Version×
and Mark 11:12-14 Mark 11:12-14 [12] And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: [13] And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. [14] And Jesus answered and said to it, No man eat fruit of you hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.
American King James Version×
and 20 - 25

I will start off saying that I don’t have a green thumb (kind of grey actually) but I enjoy working in the garden.  I can usually figure out what is the problem with a plant by deduction – is it too crowded with weeds?  Does it need more or less fertilizer?  Is it getting enough water?  After the snow dump that we had in Big Sandy and the following freeze of 2021, a number of bushes and trees died …well, I thought they had.  Little did I know that the snow that fell actually preserved many of those plants under the snowline so all I needed to do was trim out the dead limbs and fertilize.

The title of this message is: You and the Fig Tree.

Before I get in too much about my gardening issues, I’d like us to turn the scripture and we will read the first account in Matthew 21 first.  Matthew 21:18-19 Matthew 21:18-19 [18] Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungry. [19] And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said to it, Let no fruit grow on you henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.
American King James Version×

18 Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He (He, being Jesus) was hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away.

Now we will read about the same account from Mark 11:12-14 Mark 11:12-14 [12] And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: [13] And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. [14] And Jesus answered and said to it, No man eat fruit of you hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.
American King James Version×

12 Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. 13 And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.”

And His disciples heard it.

Oh yes – I bet they heard it and it probably scared them a little.  Both accounts show us a little different information but together give us a fuller picture. Naturally, I was shocked by the passages.  As we see in the Mark account, it wasn’t even the time for figs?  Completely puzzled, I left it alone and chalked it up to “I guess I’ll understand it later!”   After what happened with my fig bush this spring, I think I came to understand it a little more.

The fig tree was just outside of the town of Bethany.  The meaning of Bethany is 'house of welcome' or 'house of figs'. The name can also be traced back as a Biblical name, Bethany, a town close to Jerusalem at the foot of the Mount of Olives, where Lazarus lived in the New Testament. The name is derived from the Greek ‘Bethania'.  Greek: Βηθανία (Bethania), which is probably of Aramaic or Hebrew origin, meaning "house of affliction" or "house of figs".   Wouldn’t it be easy to assume that a land that is named after Figs would have the ample environment to grow such things?  I think so.

Now after reading these passages, I’d like to stop and discuss a little of what Jesus was like? For sake of time, I’m not going to go in depth on the full nature of Jesus Christ but to make my point, I will give you a few examples.

Jesus had a compassionate nature.  He was serious, focused, kind and selfless. He prayed, listened, obeyed, and cared about what God wanted in Children of God. There are many other ways to describe Jesus Christ but one that I would like to focus on was He was serious about God’s followers and what they accomplished.  When they (God’s followers) faltered, He corrected them. Sometimes rather sternly.  You see, God does not want anyone in the God Family that isn’t living up to what is expected of them – even in deep dark trials.  With that in mind, I’d like to have you visualize that you (and I) are that fig tree.

Back to my huge fig bush.  My fig bush had been an incredible producer of figs for years.  I loved that bush.  One year we got a gallon of figs off of it every day for a solid week!  I never fertilized it or watered it.  That bush was such a huge blessing to my family.  THEN this spring, we had that snow dump and horrible freeze.  As I said earlier, I was sure it was completely gone then I thought I saw one little bud coming up from the ground where the bush used to stand.  After a little research Online, I found one place that suggested that I remove all the dead limbs and fertilize it.  I figured if there was a chance for this fig bush that I would not only trim it out but would fertilize it and put bark mulch all around to give it the best chance of survival.  After a month, those tiny buds starting shooting upward and it became a full and large bush again!  Naturally I assumed that because of the trauma it endured, there would be no fruit so I kept tending to it till one day I found one small fig growing!  I was so excited. 

After a week, several other figs started to grow so I watered it and fertilized it again.  Those figs never got bigger than an almond. I read up on how long it would take for those figs to ripen and found that if they hadn’t ripened already (after 2 weeks) they would never ripen.  I was fairly disappointed … and that’s when the accounts of the fig bush came to mind.  I went to my Bible and read it then reread it and started to see it a little more clearly why Jesus might have been upset enough to curse the tree.

My fig bush, after a huge adversity, bounced back to where I thought for sure it would start producing but it did not.  It merely looked like it would

Now have you had a serious health, work or life trial that took you to the brink of destruction but with God’s Grace, you did bounce back?  Do we think (I have) that because of our hard trials that we’re given a pass to not do anything … you know … just till I feel ready to?

Do we look or appear as if we’re doing what God expects us in public but in private not produce any real fruit?

I want you to think about that.  Think hard.  Are we … am I, producing the fruit that God expects from us after we have been blessed with His help making it through that horrendous trial? Are we still in a trial? God expects us to produce fruit – even if we think it’s not ’the time for fruit’.

Now turn with me in your Bibles to Revelations, chapter 3 and start in verse 14 and read through verse 22.

14 “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,

‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. (Drop down to verse 19)

19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore, be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. 21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

22 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

You see, God wants us to produce fruit and be with Him and His Father in the God Family but if we do not, He has no choice but to eliminate all those that can ‘infect’ the rest of the vine.

I’d like to close with this parable and as you hear me read it, let it sink in and realize that you have a duty to produce fruit – no matter the trial or difficulties you’ve been through.  You can and will overcome with the help of God’s Holy Spirit.  Turn with me to Luke, chapter 13 and verses 6 through 9.

He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ 8 But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’

Now you may be thinking to yourself – is he ever going to explain what the passages mean?  Well, I can most certainly tell you what I THINK it means:  God knows us … there is nothing hidden to HIM or Jesus.  They know when we are actually producing fruit or just pretending for others to see.  I believe Jesus knew that THIS tree would never produce any real fruit so he struck it down to keep others from running to this barren tree in the future, just to find nothing but beautiful leaves and no fruit.

God has pruned us and fertilized us with trials and is expecting great things.  Trials and tribulations come to us all.  Some even shake us to the core and nearly destroy us.  Life have been very tough for many dealing with illnesses, family and job situations.  Still, even through the toughest of trials, we are expected to bear fruit … even if it’s just a little fruit.  I know it’ll be difficult but with God’s help, you can do it.