Mark 11:12-14 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.
This particular episode has always bothered me, because it doesn’t seem like my mental image of Jesus. If it wasn’t the season for figs, why did He curse the tree for not having any? I’ve heard explanations that said such trees often had a few figs even out of season, but that was pretty unconvincing to me. However, two things come to mind. The first is that this generated a powerful teaching moment (which comes up in tomorrow’s reading). Jesus needed His disciples, and by extension, us, to know that His power was for judgment as well as for healing. However, that still begs the question of why the tree was judged. The second thing that comes to mind is from Paul’s instructions to Timothy. “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season.” (2 Timothy 4:2) We are to be prepared to do our Lord’s bidding regardless of times or places, and the fig tree was no exception. That should really give us pause. We are very prone to serve God when we think we’re ready, when the proper response is simply, “Yes Sir.” We forget that the power, the ability, and everything else come from Him, and so we judge “seasonableness” by ourselves. What a loss! We need to be so focused on Him that we are available to Him whatever the time, place, or circumstances. If we will do that, His power will be manifested through us for the blessing of many and for His glory.
Not only do I face this issue in myself, as a pastor I also deal with it in others. It is very much to his credit that my newly-ordained assistant pastor didn’t draw back when I asked him to preach four Sundays in a row while I was on this trip. Frankly, he’s not yet “in season,” but God is using this to train and grow him. I’ll need to “debrief” him thoroughly and gently after I get back, to guide and cement that growth, but he accepted the challenge in dependence on God. We need to grow together as we walk out what God has for us, individually and as a church, and that applies to me as much as it does to him.
Father thank You for this Word. Thank You that the trip is winding down, and we’ll be back in Japan in less than a week (though not yet back to Omura). Help me accept and fulfill Your assignments for each moment, not basing my obedience on my ability but trusting You completely, so that Your will may be done on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!