A Lesson from a Tree

photo of waterfalls during fall season

Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

Matthew 24:32–36 (ESV)

32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.

Parallel Texts: Mark 13:28-32; Luke 21:29-33

Understanding and Applying the Word

I live in the Michigan, where we love the change of the seasons. In our area of the country, we experience all four seasons in full force, from the hot and humid days of summer to the frigid cold of winter. With each change in season, there are telltale signs that a change is in process. My personal favorite takes place in the fall when the air becomes cooler and the leaves on our beautiful hardwood trees display an array of colors before dropping. It is easy to know that summer is over and winter is coming soon.

Jesus used the example of a fig tree to teach his followers about preparing for his return. When a fig tree puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. Just like reading the signs of the changing seasons, we can read the signs of the times to know that Jesus is coming soon. Jesus said, “When you see all of these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates.” The things Jesus referred to are the ones listed in the previous verses (vv. 4-25).

We must be careful in how we read these words of Jesus. It was not his intention tell us to watch for signs and create charts and calendars to figure out the timing of his return. He explicitly stated that no one knows the time, but the Father. Jesus’ purpose was to reassure his disciples that they could trust that he would return. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away,” he said. We can count on Jesus’ promise to return. His word stands forever. Let us be ready and let us serve him in confidence while we wait!

**If you enjoy reading Shaped by the Word, please consider sharing this post on social media. Doing so helps us reach a larger audience. Thanks for reading!

A Tree With No Fruit

flight landscape nature sky

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

Matthew 21:18–19 (ESV)

18 In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.

Parallel Text: Mark 11:12-14

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus was hungry and went to get fruit from a fig tree. Since the tree had leaves, there should have been fruit as the leaves would have come on after the fruit. However, the tree had only leaves. When Jesus saw this, he cursed the tree and said, “May no fruit ever come from you again!”

The barren fig tree served as an object lesson concerning the nation of Israel (often pictured as a fig tree in the Old Testament) and its empty religion. Just like the tree had leaves and there was an expectation of fruit, Israel had its religious systems, but there was no true spiritual fruit. The appearance was there, but that was all there was. As a result of its fruitlessness, the fig tree suffered judgement and served as a warning to Israel that it would suffer the same.

Religious observance is not a bad thing. Religious observance without true love and devotion towards God and others is a bad thing. Religious practices without love and devotion are just empty practices. They are worthless. A person could go to church, sing all of the songs, give offerings, and volunteer to work in the nursery, but still not bear the fruit of a living and growing faith. Ask yourself: Is your religious practice what you do to earn God’s favor? Or, is your religious practice in response to what God has already done for you in Jesus Christ? One is motivated by love. The other is done out of obligation. Which of these pleases the Lord?

**If you enjoy reading Shaped by the Word, please consider sharing this post on social media. Doing so helps us reach a larger audience. Thanks for reading!

Fruitless Trees

The Vine Dresser and the Fig Tree

The Vinedresser and the Fig Tree (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 13:6–9 (ESV)

6 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ ”

Understanding and Applying the Word

In the previous verses, Jesus taught about the need for repentance. In this parable, he continues with this theme with the example of a fig tree. In the Old Testament, a fruitful tree was often used to speak of one who was living a godly life (cf. Psalm 1:1-3; Jeremiah 17:7-8). A fig tree that was already three years old should have been producing fruit. Since it was not, it was time to cut it down. However, the vinedresser asked to give the tree one more year. The tree would get all it needed to produce. If it still did not, then the tree could be cut down.

The parable’s message is that God is patient towards us as he waits for us to produce the fruit of repentance. However, there is a time when that patience will end and judgment will come. We must produce fruit today while we still have opportunity. John the Baptist taught this lesson earlier in Luke 3:7-9 where he said, “Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Jesus came preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (cf. Matthew 4:17)!” If you have not done so, will you today?

**If you enjoy reading Shaped by the Word, please consider sharing this post on social media. Doing so helps us reach a larger audience. Thanks for reading!