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What a shocking day it was!  It was surely a day to remember.  Jesus of Nazareth had come to Jerusalem, walked into the Temple, and had begun to chase out those that sold and bought sacrifices.  He turned over the tables of the ones known as “moneychangers,” the ones who made quite a profit in changing filthy lucre into Jewish currency that was considered holy enough for worship.  As he overturned the seats of those that sold doves for sacrificing, He cried out, “Is it not written, “My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer?  But ye have made it a den of thieves.”   Some were simply astonished at what He did.  Others were very afraid.  Still others plotted how to rid Jerusalem of this man from Galilee.  In this story, however, lies a great and deep truth that can bless all of us, but it requires a careful look at the events preceding and following the scene at the Temple.

“And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.  And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: 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.  And Jesus answered and said unto it, “No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever.”  And the disciples heard it.”  Mark 11:11-14

Jesus had already been to the Temple the day before and had simply looked around.  Verse 11 tells us that He looked upon all things before leaving.  It was the same day in which He had entered Jerusalem riding upon the donkey with the multitudes shouting “Hosanna in the highest.”  They had declared Him blessed in the name of the Lord, hoping that He was indeed the one to restore the kingdom of David in Israel.  The very next day, however, found Him chasing out the corruption that had become so commonplace in what was once known as the House of God.  Before entering into Jerusalem the second time though, Jesus stopped at a certain fig tree with a view of doing two things: to find fruit to eat as He was hungry; and to give an object lesson to the twelve that were with Him that day. 

The Bible tells us that, even from a great distance away, Jesus saw that this tree had leaves.  It was not quite the time of harvesting the figs, and therefore, there was a very good chance that the tree might be full of fruit, waiting for those passersby to help themselves as they traveled.  But when arriving at the tree Jesus and the others found no fruit at all.  Jesus’ reaction was the famous curse we now read about in Mark 11 and Matthew 21.  Apparently, the disciples did not understand the lesson Jesus was teaching that day, for we read that the following day they were astonished to see the same tree now dried up and dead.  We cannot afford to miss the essence of this same lesson, however.

Here was the Creator; the Word made flesh, the Almighty One who had come to find fruit on a tree that He had supplied throughout its life.  He was the One that had given the sun and the rain, the nutrients and the care that was aimed at one single goal: producing edible fruit.  On this day, though, when the Maker came for what was rightfully His, the tree had nothing to show except shiny leaves!   From the spot of that curse, Jesus and the others traveled straight into Jerusalem and straight into the Temple to find a similar thing taking place, although not in a tree, but in men.  Here was the House of the Lord, a place that was to shine forth the glory of God in worship and true holiness unto the God of Israel.  It was ordained and consecrated as a house of worship, a place where men could give themselves as they offered their substitute sacrifices to God.  Instead, it had become a place where only the outward motions of religious liturgy were being offered.  If the Temple had been a tree, it would at this time have had only leaves, but no fruit! 

Was it all just a coincidence then?  When looking at the events of the following morning we can begin to clearly understand what all of this was really about.  Once more, they passed the fig tree, now dead and already withered.  Peter seemed surprised at this rapid change and remarked the same to the Lord.  Jesus answered by saying, “Have faith in God.”   Jesus went on to speak of the removal of the mountain (Jerusalem and the Temple) and the necessity to be fruitful in our own lives (desiring, praying, and receiving.)  Even if the twelve failed the test that day, the message is clear for the Church of today: be fruitful and be careful.

God has abundantly blessed each of us, and there is a clear intent in these blessings: being fruitful.  God gives every blessing, every provision, every day, and even every breath for a reason.  To receive these things and misuse them is one of the greatest tragedies possible. 

A short time after the Temple incident, Jesus teaches the parable of the man who took a far journey.  In Mark 13:34-37 He says that the man “…left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.  Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning.  Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.  And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.”  The context is clear—the coming of the Lord.  But the parable itself speaks of what those in the household were entrusted with.  The man’s servants were given authority, every man was given his own work, and the porter was charged with the oversight thereof.  They were, in other words, expected to accomplish something before the master of the house returned.  The warning given by Jesus was clear enough: we must watch out so that we are not found asleep at the Master’s arrival.  If sleeping, it would be proof that the objective was not being reached during the given time.  The word for “watch” in verse 33 comes from the Greek, agrupneo, meaning “to chase away sleep, or to be sleepless.”  At the close of the story another word for watch is used, gregoreo, meaning “to be vigilant, or spiritually awake.”  It is not enough to simply keep the house intact, or to preserve the status quo; there was work assigned and authority given to carry out definite responsibilities.  We cannot neglect these while choosing sleep instead. Referring back to the fig tree, we cannot permit the production of great looking leaves to substitute for the much sought after fruit!

The subject of this and the other chapters is revival and/or harvest.  Whatever we might call the ingathering of souls into the Kingdom of God before His coming, the objective must be certain.  We are ordained to be fruitful in this work, and nothing, not leaves, not outward adornment, nor substitute sacrifices will stand in place of what our great Master is seeking to have: spiritual fruit.  In Mark 11, Israel had been targeted by the symbolism of the unfruitful fig tree.  She had taken all that God had given, yet used it for the wrong reasons and toward the wrong end.  Though much of Israel was no doubt religiously devoted, the nation had fallen into a lifeless and futile methodology, a mediocre form of godliness only.  Corruption and hypocrisy had replaced genuine sacrifice and humility.  The most respected of the religious crowd were termed as vipers by the Lord of heaven Himself.  As horrible as it was, and as easy as it is to point the blame in all of this, it is also something that can all too easily ensnare us in today’s Church.  Though we might have great programs, polished oratory, expensive edifices, and even tremendous spiritual gifts of which Paul spoke in 1 Corinthians 12-14, if we have not love and if we are not fruitful in producing what the Lord is after, we may become nothing more than cursed and dying fig trees.  The apostle Peter put it this way, “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Peter 4:10)  Just like in the case of the fig tree, we are being given all that we need to become individually and corporately fruitful in the Kingdom of God.  We must be very careful in ensuring that all of the sun and the rain and the nutrients are directed by the Spirit to achieve the desired goal.

About Jim Poitras

Enlisiting, educating, equipping, empowering, and encouraging members, ministers, and missionaries in apostolic global missions. Director of Education/AIM