Mark 11:12-14; 20-23
12 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 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. 14 And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.
20 As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.
Throughout Holy Week, Jesus' home base was at the home of His good friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany, two miles east of Jerusalem on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. Each morning Jesus and the twelve made the beautiful two mile walk down from the Mount of Olives, through the Kidron Valley, and up into Jerusalem. On Monday morning during this journey, Jesus cursed a fig tree, and on the same journey 24 hours later, Peter noticed the already-withered tree.
Surely this is one of the strangest stories in the Gospels. What did Jesus have against the poor fig tree? As you might expect, there's more going on here than meets the eye. It's no accident that sandwiched between the two accounts of the fig tree is the confrontation at the temple (Mark 11:15-19). Just like the tree, the Jewish religious system looked good on the outside but was bearing no fruit. Why? Because it had become disconnected from its true purpose and source of life.
Later in the week, Jesus would say much more to the disciples about bearing fruit (John 15:1-11), but for now He wanted them to have this memorable object lesson. (And the fact we're reading about it today proves they remembered it.) The withered tree is a lesson about what happens when we are disconnected from Christ, who is our true purpose and source of life. All outward signs of life dry up and our lives become "fruitless." But Jesus wants to lead us in the opposite direction—toward life, vitality, hope, and meaning. As we follow Him, His fruit is produced in us. All we have to do is stay close.
Let's pray this prayer together today:
Our Father, thank you for planting us on this earth for a purpose—to produce fruit that glorifies You and points others to Your goodness and love. You provide for us all that we need to grow: water for our thirst, food for our hunger, shelter from the elements, sunlight to brighten our souls. But Your greatest provision for us is Your Son, Jesus. You sent Him to reconnect us to You so we might fulfill Your grand design for our lives. Help us as we follow Him this week, through a difficult season where the very earth underneath us feels unstable. Plant our roots deep in Christ, so that the storm around us would only make us more fit to bear His fruit through our lives.
Find a nearby tree and cut a small branch from it. Make sure the branch has signs of life: green leaves or a budding flower. Now place the branch somewhere in your home where you will see it for the rest of the week. As you watch the branch change a little each day, let it remind you of your own desperate need for Jesus, your source of life and vitality.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.