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“On the following day, when they came from Bethany, He was hungry. 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. And He said to it, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And His disciples heard it. … As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree that You cursed has withered.'” (Mark 11:12-14, 20-21 ESV)

This is a strange miracle of Jesus. It’s the only one I can think of that is destructive—that kills instead of giving life. But it makes sense four days before Jesus’ death, as Jesus is acting out a parable—one last warning to the people of God.

To understand it, you have to know how common figs in Israel grow. They produce two crops a year, the most important one in August or September. But the earlier, smaller “breba” crop is visible at Passover time. It doesn’t produce very good figs—a lot of growers don’t even bother to pick them—but still, they are a guarantee of the good ones to come. A tree with no breba figs is a tree that will be barren later on, when it really matters.

Jesus is warning God’s people. When God comes looking, will there be any fruit—at least the low-quality breba fruit that is a promise for the future? For we are God’s fig trees, and our fruit—sin-riddled and low-quality though it may be—is the evidence that we belong to Jesus. He lives in us. The Holy Spirit has made us living trees as we trust in the Lord who died for us and rose to make us His own.

Prayer: Lord, make me fruitful through Your life living in me. Amen.

Reflection Questions:

* Do you like figs? Why or why not?
* How do you feel about the Christian fruit in your life?
* Does it comfort you to know God isn’t grading the quality of your fruit—that He’s just happy it exists?

Lenten Devotions were written by Dr. Kari Vo, republished with permission from Lutheran Hour Ministries

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