Saturday, November 22, 2014

NTDS (23): Figs, Faith and Failure

Matt 21:19 Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, "No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you." And at once the fig tree withered. NASU

This event may seem insignificant, but the truth is just the opposite. It is very significant in the lessons it can teach us. By God’s sovereignty, this tree has been placed by the side of the road where Jesus will pass by, so that Jesus can teach an important lesson to His disciples about faith, failure and judgment.

The immediate lesson is contained in verses 20-22. The disciples were amazed that when Jesus cursed the tree, it withered at once, It is hard to figure out why they would be surprised after all they had already witnessed in their nearly three years with Him, but they were. Jesus uses the event, to let them know that they will be doing much more than that, if they will ask Him in faith. On the surface, it would seem that this is the major lesson Jesus wanted them to learn, but a reading of the rest of the chapter shows that He had much more in mind.

Jesus had already taught the disciples many lessons about faith, using other miracles, so what lesson would He teach using this miracle? The answer is contained in the symbolism of the tree.

This fig tree was in its fruit-bearing season, yet it had no fruit. If there is no fruit on a fruit tree when there is supposed to be fruit, what is it good for? If a tree does not do what it is supposed to do, it is worthless, it serves no purpose, so it might as well be cut down to make room for something that will fulfill it’s purpose. There is much biblical precedent for this idea.

Luke 13:6-9
 And He began telling this parable: "A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. "And he said to the vineyard-keeper, 'Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?'  "And he answered and said to him, 'Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.'" NASU

Isa 5:4-5
Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones? "So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard:I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground. NASU

Here in Matthew, Jesus is using the fig tree as a picture of the nation of Israel. In verses 28-45 He emphasizes their failure to produce the fruit that they should have been bearing. Israel was supposed to be a nation that shined the light of God by their example and by their teaching, but they had failed miserably at both. They had become a nation bound by legalistic rules and corruption, as evidenced by Jesus having to cleanse the temple. Matt 21:13 "It is written, 'MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER'; but you are making it a ROBBERS' DEN." NASU

They were not bearing the fruit that God had intended them to bear and were so far from Him as a nation, that they rejected His Son, their Messiah. They refused to place their faith in Him. Therefore they would suffer the same kind of judgment that the failed fig tree did. This happened in 70 AD when for all intents and purposes, they ceased to exist as a nation until 1948.

What is the application for us? It is simple. We must heed the same warning. Look at what Jesus said in John 15:2  "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” and John 15:6 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. NASU

You see, like Israel, we are called to bear fruit. Jesus said we are salt and light in this world (Mt 5). The witness, of who God is, to His love, His justice and His Mercy, has been passed from Israel to the church, until the “times of the Gentiles” are complete (Lk 21:24).

Jesus exhorts us to fulfill our testimony, by placing our faith in Him, abiding in Him and letting Him work in our life to bear much fruit! We do not want to fail in that task. We do not do this by our own power or strength. We do it by abiding in Him. That word abide literally means “to stay” in a given place or relation. When we abide in Him, He gives us the power and ability, through our faith in Him, to bear that fruit. It flows out of us because of the joy we have in Christ our Savior. So let’s abide in Him and bear the fruit we are supposed to bear. Then we will never dry up and be cast into the fire, but instead be a blessing to a world that is hungry for His fruit.

God bless you


No comments:

Post a Comment