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. (Mark 11:12-14 ESV)
Okay, this passage always disturbed me. Poor tree. It wasn’t supposed to be producing fruit yet. The passage says it was not the right season. Did Jesus just have a selfish temper tantrum? That doesn’t sound like my Jesus. Why would Mark be compelled to include this story in his gospel?
A few verses later, Jesus uses the cursed fig tree’s withered condition as a lesson in determined faith. Believe and you can do anything. But he could have moved a mountain or raised a fig tree from a seed before their eyes to make that point. Why kill the tree?
We had a fig tree in our backyard when I was growing up. We played under it’s low branches and made forts. The birds and squirrels loved the figs, but when the fruit ended up on the ground rotted, they stank with a pungent sweetness. It didn’t take long for a fig to ripen. You had to pick it fast.
Jesus searched that fig tree. Even though it was not the normal time for it to produce fruit, the potential would have been there. His Creator eye would have seen the minuscule buddings which would eventually turn into succulent sweetness. He could, as God, have touched the tiny buds and make them miraculously grow and ripen, like time lapse photography on a nature show. But, the tree was barren. It had no potential.
My mind jumps to the fruit of the Spirit. With Jesus in our hearts, the minute buddings of the Spirit are planted. God sees our potential. We may not be ready to become ripe as of yet, but the buddings are visible to His Creator eye. He sees us not only as we are but as we will be if we let him prune us. He will make sure our fruit will attract others, and not go wasted or drop to the ground to rot.
But, we have to be willing to produce. That, I believe, is the key. He won’t force us to bear fruit. We have to accept the buddings into our souls so we can grow in faith in order to feed the Truth to a hungry world. Otherwise, like that cursed fig tree, we will wither into selfish meaninglessness.
I also know one more thing. Jesus can touch withered lives and bring forth green leaves and buddings where no one would think they could ever be. What to the world seems as hopeless can be restored to purpose in the loving hands of the Creator. That is mountain moving faith. Jesus loves each of us enough to want us to bear fruit. He wants to establish His budding Spirit in our lives. He really does, well, give a fig about each of us.