Welcome to Thursday’s Foundation Podcast. Today’s passage is Mark 11:20-33. We are going to focus today on verses 20-21.
In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
This week, we’ve been asking the question: ‘What kind of life?’ What kind of life is Jesus calling us to live? Today, we are going to think about the call to a life of being fruitful.
We know from the point of creation, being fruitful is God’s plan for his people. We see this message reiterated time and time again throughout the Old Testament, often using the imagery of a plant and tree. Jesus affirms this as God’s plan for this new community he is building when he explains to his disciples: ‘You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last’. God desires that we be a fruitful people. That we live the life that we were created for. That we each take what God has given us and use it for the purposes of building his kingdom – of seeing others come to know him and the new life he has for them also.
The withered fig tree, which at first seems a little out of place here, amidst the backdrop of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and then the subsequent confrontation he has with the money lenders in temple, is in fact an important reminder that God is committed to this plan.
But what we also see in this passage is that the fig tree has withered. It hasn’t borne fruit. Jesus curses it – we see this in yesterday’s passage – because it isn’t producing figs even though it’s the season for it. The image of the withered fig tree is a symbol of judgement. It emphasises the fact that God cares about what we do with this gift, this life he has given us.
We saw this yesterday with Jesus turning over the tables in the temple and we see it with the fig tree in today’s passage. When God doesn’t see the potential in his creation being realised, it grieves him.
Prior to being a youth worker, I was a primary school teacher – a job I loved. I just want to take this opportunity to honour all the teachers within our STC family. What an amazing job you do in serving the Lord in this way!
My experience of teaching was that each day was full of massive blessings and also at times battles. At times I often felt there was this sense of frustration, of sadness when I saw that a child I was teaching wasn’t realising their potential. When it was just so evident that a child was capable of so much more but they just didn’t realise it or they did but weren’t able to fully immerse themselves in getting the most from their learning experiences. And at times – the thing that really saddened me was that it seemed like there wasn’t an obvious answer. No resource, no additional support, no parental meetings – they didn’t appear to change anything. I remember thinking, as some the children I taught left school and moved onto to secondary school, ‘What will become of your life?’
But as we see in today’s passage, yes God sees the problem. He sees his creation continually turn away from him, not living as he created them to…but he also provides them with the answer. Jesus tells his disciples, in verse 22, to have faith. It seems an odd response when they have just pointed out that the fig tree he cursed has withered. It’s died. Its potential for bearing fruit gone. But Jesus says, ‘Have faith’.
Today we see that to live a life of fruitfulness comes through living a life of faith. Fruitfulness comes when we confess our need for Jesus and turn to him. At STC, we use something called LifeShapes, a tool to help us live more like Jesus. One of the key shapes we engage with as a church family, as mid-week communities, as individuals, is the learning circle. It involves two key aspects. Repent – turning away from the thing, the behaviour, the situation, person that is leading us away from God and turning to Jesus and allowing him to speak into our lives. Then there is ‘Believe’ – Trusting in him. Committing to Jesus and the path he is leading us down. To listen to God and then to act.
We sum this up with two key questions – two great questions to ask ourselves each day as disciples of Jesus seeking to live a fruitful life – What is God to saying to me? What am I going to do about it?
Today we see that fruitfulness and faithfulness go hand in hand. As we turn to God, as we listen to his voice, as we commit to following the path he has marked out for us – we receive and know God’s blessing in our lives, and we in turn become people better used by him to reveal this life of purpose and meaning to others.
God, thank you that you created us for a reason, that we aren’t just a random accident. Jesus, thank you that in trusting in you we discover who we are and who we are created to be. We pray that where we need to hear your voice today that we would listen. And that where you lead us this day God that we would have the obedience to follow. Amen.
READING: Mark 11:20-33
In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig-tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig-tree you cursed has withered!’
‘Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered. ‘Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.’
They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. ‘By what authority are you doing these things?’ they asked. ‘And who gave you authority to do this?’
Jesus replied, ‘I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism – was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!’
They discussed it among themselves and said, ‘If we say, “From heaven,” he will ask, “Then why didn’t you believe him?” But if we say, “Of human origin” . . .’ (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)
So they answered Jesus, ‘We don’t know.’
Jesus said, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’