I have been known to tell a person or two that I love the church calendar. The anticipation of Advent, the reality of my sinfulness during Lent, rejoicing in the resurrection of Jesus on Resurrection Sunday, Eastertide, Pentecost, all of it. And here we are in Holy Week.
Today as I think about the Monday of Holy Week, it reminds me of the years we lived in Italy. About four times a week, I walked 5-7 kilometers, a couple of which ran through beautiful green park areas. One of these areas had several fig trees from which anyone passing by could pick a few delicious figs. Figs are great, but very sweet. When I managed to get a few, it felt like a treasure. Figs generally bloom twice a year, so in both early and late summer you had a chance to find something on the tree.
In Matthew 21:18-19 and Mark 11:12-14 we see Jesus coming from Bethany back into Jerusalem. He sees a fig tree and decides to check it out. He looks for figs, but none are to be found “for it was not the season for figs.” Then, He curses the fig tree saying, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”
Why? Why did Jesus curse the tree? Was there a purpose? What was he trying to do here?
If you’ve ever seen a fig tree, you know that the leaves are beautiful. They’re big and green and have just the neatest shape. Fig trees are actually quite pretty. And, that’s what the religious leaders were, weren’t they? Neat little packages that washed their hands at the right time, in the right way. Clean and tidy and never, ever caught working on the Sabbath. Perfect on the outside, and unafraid to let you know just how perfect they were.
Their insides, though, Jesus had exposed more than once. He’d made it quite clear that they were like “whitewashed tombs.” These guys were clean on the outside and as dirty as dead men’s bones on the inside. He cursed that fig tree to show those who heard just how hard those “religious” hearts had become. Their outsides were neat and clean and seemingly perfect, but their hearts were unfruitful and unproductive. They had no fruit. They had this religious morality. They were good people. On the outside. But inside?
Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in this world who clean up real good, as they say. On the outside, we see all that they do for the Kingdom. We see the cross they bear for the Lord. We see the money that they give and the pearl clutching that goes on when they hear of the sinful goings-on of their neighbors. But, their insides? Are they full of love? Do they produce fruit?
Do we? Do I? Think about it. Are you a Christian that loves your neighbor? Jesus himself said that the world will know us by our love. He didn’t mention posts or comments. He didn’t mention that we would be known for our condemnation or judgement of others. We would be known by our love. The fruit that the Spirit produces is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. Do you have this fruit? Are you producing fruit? Is your heart hard, or willing to be genuine and faithful in your obedience? Are you allowing the Spirit to do his work, or are you working hard for Jesus but not really getting anywhere?
Remain in Him today, and allow Him to do the hard work of making you righteous on the inside, and the outside will follow suit.