On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 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. 14 And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.
Walking through this apple orchard did something for my soul; it seemed to speak of beauty and fruitfulness and so much promise. Exiting, we then looked across the road to a similar spread of trees, only these were peach trees. All the trees were expertly pruned. Almost all were verdant and extremely healthy. Three generations of this wonderful family had worked these trees; I couldn’t imagine a richer inheritance. I thought it would live forever.
But, there was so much I didn’t know.
Later that year I called my friend, the owner. I had a penetrating question to ask him about the orchard: would he entertain the possibility of my son and his family moving up there to work in the orchard, to learn the trade, to become part of the operation.
“Sorry, Dave. You’re a little late. We plowed it all under last week.”
What did I just hear? No, this was not possible. Jeff, you loved that orchard; you couldn’t do away with it. No. No. No. But, that’s precisely what happened, because there are other things more important than the burden of what I only saw as a blessing. But, I wasn’t the one doing any, let alone nearly all, of the work. I wasn’t the one making hundreds if not thousands of gallons of cider. I wasn’t the one baking new goods early every morning for the bustling shoppers who expected “Kim’s special” with every visit. I wasn’t the one pruning, picking, and preparing the apples for purchase. I wasn’t the one. Kim was the one doing the store stuff. Jeff was the one doing the orchard stuff, after he got home from work. His mom and dad did yeomen’s work, too, there’s no doubt about it. But, when the heads hit the pillow every night, this orchard had become the blessing… and the burden… of our friends Kim and Jeff. And when they woke up very early every morning, there it was, needing to be tended.
They had had enough. They had raised their family and were now beginning to love on the grandkids. They had met and exceeded the expectations of the masses over the years for whom shopping at Leipprandt’s Orchard had become an expected and tasty right of passage in the north of the thumb of Michigan. But – and I’m certain it wasn’t easy – they desired and needed a change, and they couldn’t stand to see the orchard just live on without the care they had given it. It had to be done away with. So, it was. And (as usual) I was too late.
Our Scripture lesson today has a little bit of a similar vein. And I need help to understand this story, I really do. So, I have studied this from “the experts” to see what I miss by just taking it at face value. I now think there is so much more to this story than just the powerful Jesus taking out His hungry disappointment on a fruitless tree. Let’s consider…
One of the most explanations is that, in the Bible, the fig tree very often represents the nation Israel, and according to that thinking, such would be the case here. Israel has not lived up to its calling as a “kingdom of priests.” God asked them to tell the nations about Him. They didn’t. They have been “fruitless,” just like this tree, so He is putting that “approach” to death. A new approach will soon go into place, the story of His Son reconciling the world to Himself outside of and apart from the “bearing” of figs by the fruit tree.
Again, there is probably so much more to this encounter between Christ and the tree. If you are interested, check out a reliable commentary or two. (Reliable = views the Bible with all the majesty it requires, not as merely literature.) For our purposes today, rejoice that the invitation of God is by Him to all the peoples of the world. RSVP.
Clive says: “The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself , are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose.”