“The next morning as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. He noticed a fig tree in full leaf a little way off, so he went over to see if he could find any figs. But there were only leaves because it was too early in the season for fruit. Then Jesus said to the tree, ‘may no one ever eat your fruit again!’ And the disciples heard him say it.” (Mark 11:12-14 NLT)
I’ve read the story a number of times, and each time, the same question arises anew: Why would Jesus search for figs on a tree when it isn’t the season for ripe figs? After all, He created the fig tree, He created the seasons, He knows that there is a time and a place for everything and all fruit must be in season!
Yet not only do we see Him looking for fruit on the tree, but we also see Him cursing the tree when He doesn’t find any! Why, Jesus? How can You curse a tree for not having fruit when it isn’t even the season, that pre-designed time that you put into place, for figs?
As a side note, before you delete this email and unsubscribe from the mailings that I would dare to question God, let’s remember that God doesn’t mind being questioned. Maybe He would prefer blind faith, but He would far rather be questioned than for us to simply turn away from Him without asking! We see clearly this in the tiny book of Habakkuk. Here is just one example:
“How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen! ‘Violence is everywhere!’ I cry, but you do not come to save. Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery?” (Habakkuk 1:2-3a NLT)
Interestingly, we don’t just see the prophet questioning God, but we also see him accusing God: “But You do not listen! … but You do not come to save.” God’s response? He lovingly responds to Habakkuk’s concerns! And He’ll lovingly respond to ours as well.
Back to my main question: Why would Jesus curse a tree for not having fruit when it isn’t even the season for fruit?
As I read this story last week, God answered me. He reminded me that we, as Christians, are expected to bear fruit: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (Gal. 5:22-23 NLT).
We are also told that if we don’t bear fruit, we will be cut off: “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” (John 15:1-2 NLT)
So not only are we expected to bear fruit, but if we do not bear that fruit of the Spirit, we will be…cut off. We are also told that even if we are bearing fruit, we will be pruned back so that we will bear more fruit!
Notice that there is no timeline on this spiritual fruit-bearing. It doesn’t say that God cuts off branches that don’t produce fruit in season. It simply says that He cuts off branches.
I understood then, for the first time, why Jesus cursed that fig tree, despite the fact that it wasn’t the season for fruit. Jesus was giving a loud and clear message to all of His followers: We are to bear fruit, no matter what the season!
This devotional was written during some of the darkest weeks of the Canadian COVID-19 pandemic battle. During this time, much of the world was in lockdown, and those who weren’t were encouraged to do so volitionally. It wasn’t exactly a time when we could go out and bear fruit. I mean, how could we witness to our neighbors when we couldn’t leave our houses? How could we be beacons of encouragement when we, ourselves, were so discouraged? It was definitely a winter season of our lives, not a season for fruit bearing…
It was in the midst of this darkest of times that God spoke this message to me. God was telling me very clearly that I am to bear the fruit of the Spirit…all the time, and especially in the midst of this dark time.
You see, it is when the fresh fruit isn’t in season that the people are the most hungry; and the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic was also the time when people were the most spiritually hungry. Sure, we were stuck at home, but we had the internet. We could send words of encouragement and post words of hope. We could even run small groups for encouragement and comfort using internet conferencing aps. We also had our phones. We could use them to call people to spread God’s love and good cheer. Many had cars, and some even had small supplies of protective equipment. I could do grocery runs for those who were in isolation and we could get them cash from ATMs. Some of us still had incomes. We could be giving gifts of food and finances to a hurting world.
It doesn’t matter what season you find yourselves in, friends, God has called you to bear fruit. He has called us to show love, joy, peace, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, for when you do, you are out-of-season bearing fruit for the Kingdom!
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.