Figs Out of Season

Scripture Focus: 1 Thessalonians 5.14
And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

Mark 11.13-14, 20-21
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…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!”

Reflection: Figs Out of Season
By John Tillman

The fig tree Jesus cursed was unfruitful because it was out of season. 

The fig tree was a picture of the Temple that Jesus had cleansed the day before. The Temple (whose massive edifice the disciples were enamored of) bustled with activity but produced none of the spiritual fruits of righteousness that it was intended to produce. It produced robbery rather than righteousness and pridefulness rather than humility.

The withering of the fig tree represented what Jesus consistently predicted would happen to the Temple in about 70 years. “They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 13:33-35; Luke 19.40-44

Regardless of the season of the year, in the presence of the Messiah, fruitfulness is possible and expected.

It is not possible to know for certain, but Paul may have had the image of the cursed fig tree in mind when he wrote to Timothy (2 Timothy 4.1-2) to produce spiritual fruit “in season and out of season.” 

In this season, Holy Week may feel strange and divorced from our normal spiritual activities. We will not gather as normal. We may not eat as normal. We may not celebrate as normal. It may feel impossible to produce fruit in a time such as this. We may even feel that we are experiencing the chastisement of Christ that the out-of-season fig tree experienced. We may feel withered and diminished. 

But the other side of the living (or perhaps dying) parable of the fig tree is that union with Jesus makes all things possible. The disciples are encouraged that the command to the fig tree is nothing compared to what is possible for those of us who believe.

In a time of crisis the faithful are empowered by grace to respond with what is needed. Through the power of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives we are able to produce fruit in supernatural abundance and beyond our natural abilities.

As Paul prayed for the Thessalonican church, so we pray over ourselves. May we not be disruptive or negligent, lazy or self-interested. Instead, may we focus on being encouraging, helpful, and patient. May we be fruitful, carrying out good and beneficial actions in our communities.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Let them know that this is your hand, that you, O Lord, have done it. — Psalm 109.26

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 26 (Listen 2:37) 
1 Thessalonians 5 (Listen -2:37)

Read more from Light Shines in the Darkness
The Temple Solomon built was destroyed by God because it lost sight of holiness. The second Temple Ezra built would be condemned by Christ for losing sight of mercy…

Read more about The Cultivating Life
When we partner with him and cultivate the soil of our hearts, we ensure that Christ’s power will take root in us and bring forth a harvest of the fruit of the spirit.

Setting a New Standard

Mark 10.15-17
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

Reflection: Setting a New Standard
By John Tillman

Many scholars believe that Jesus cleansed the temple of buyers and sellers repeatedly—every time he visited Jerusalem. The slight variance of accounts in scripture imply this. This interpretation also fits with the way that Jesus consistently attacked the cultural religious institutions that were slanted to benefit the powerful, the rich, and the politically connected. This included redefining his society’s concept of marriage.

In yesterday’s reading, Jesus stated views on marriage more strict than the most conservative religious sects of his day. Jesus reset the standard from “Moses allowed” to “God made.” In doing so, he stripped the power from husbands to dissolve their marriages for any reason.

Jesus made a distinction between what Moses allowed and what God desired. He described the law about divorce, which Moses wrote, as a concession to the hard-heartedness of people who were too selfish and unloving to live according to God’s original design. This teaching on marriage was so extreme that his own disciples despaired of marrying due to the harshness of his teaching, saying, “If this is the situation…it is better not to marry.

Jesus both affirms the deep, spiritual purpose of marriage as God’s original design for humanity, while rejecting the culture that had twisted marriage into a power play.

No matter what culture’s moving needle says is moral, what matters to Jesus is God’s design. In this Jesus continues to demand greater righteousness than that can be attained under the law. The gospel is that he also provides that righteousness

We are no less selfish and no more loving today than the people to whom Moses gave the law. We too are stiff-necked and hard-hearted. Sin wreaks havoc in more than just marriages. Our economy is driven by coveting. Our industries profit from lust and market accordingly. The laws of our governments show that concessions must be made for our brokenness, our lusts, our lack of wisdom, our rejection of self-control, our addiction to violence, and our never-ending covetousness.

In our brokenness, we need not despair at Christ’s harshest teachings. Jesus rejected the morally compromised thinking of his culture, while at the same time welcoming into his fellowship those in clear violation of what he taught.

May we humbly welcome all whom Christ calls. Whosoever they are. Whatsoever their sin. . .
May we humbly welcome all that Christ offers: critique and correction, leading ultimately to communion.

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
When my mind became embittered, I was sorely wounded in my heart.
I was stupid and had no understanding; I was like a brute beast in your presence.
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
You will guide me by your counsel, and afterwards receive me with glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And having you I desire nothing upon earth. — Psalm 21-25

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 41 (Listen – 7:30) 
Mark 11 (Listen – 3:59)

This Weekend’s Readings
Genesis 42 (Listen – 5:08), Mark 12 (Listen – 6:10)
Genesis 43 (Listen – 5:02), Mark 13 (Listen – 4:32)

Read more about It’s In The Bible
We need to read our culture—not just live in it— seeking guidance to understand what is considered acceptable to the world, but is not acceptable to God.

Read more about In Praise of Christ’s Righteousness
We cannot save ourselves. Praise God.
God specifically tells Ezekiel that not even the greatest, most righteous men he might trust in would be able to save the nation.

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