Nothing But Leaves [Self-Deceit]

“Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.”

Mark 11:13, NASB

Perplexing isn’t it?  I personally have lived with a certain amount of ambiguity with this passage.  I have questions that I’ve swept under the rug.  Why did that poor tree get cursed?  It wasn’t the trees fault, after all.  And didn’t Jesus realize this?  So why go through the theatrics?

I don’t know if this is the case with anyone else.  I hesitate to ask around.  But recently have come to a better place about this entire event.  The traditional view is that it comes immediately after “the cleansing of the temple” and that explains a lot.  The fig tree is always emblematic of Israel.  (The Old Testament is well populated with these references.) Mark adroitly organized his account in order to connect both events.

Jesus has no issues or vendettas against trees.  But He does take an issue with things that claim fruit, but really have nothing.  There is nothing but leaves. I’ve been told that the figs do grow, almost as fast as leaves.  The lush greenness is the prime indicator of the succulent fruit. At least, it has the potential.

The beautiful leaves announces its fruitfulness.  This tree was loaded, but had nothing to show but leaves.  Within God’s plan for Israel was for fruit.  Enough to feed the nations that would stream to Jerusalem.  Instead, it was worthless.  There was nothing to be had.  Loads of leaves, and the promise of an incredible harvest, but zilch, zero, nothing.

Hypocrisy is a deadening experience, with a certain sterility in it.  Israel was finding this out, and Jesus is now declaring it to the nation.  A corrupt temple, and a fruitless tree; this were all indicators of hypocrisy and showiness.  The luxuriant leaves loaded the tree, but ‘where’s the fruit?!’

Sometimes we declare that we are fruitful, on the mere basis of our leaves. 

At times we can be a wonder, and make an exceptional statement.  But when He comes, and looks up at our limbs and out to our branches, will He find fruit, or just lots of green?  Leaves are pretty much all we can do.  And we do it quite well. But the fruit is from the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22.)

Israel failed God.  They became religious and neglected mercy, and justice.  Humility and graciousness.  The widow and the orphan were not part of their personal equation.  They produced leaves by the wheelbarrow load, but were missing out on the authenticity to what was true, and what really mattered.

Pharisees will do this, and they turn into hypocrites who do not possess what they profess. A hypocrite values true godliness, but he personally falls short of all those things he admires. But he will never, ever admit it to anyone.  And even we who struggle so, must continually admit that we stumble and falter as we try to follow.

I may be a ‘screwy’ excuse of being a disciple, but I have decided I don’t want to deceive people.  God, help me.

“This year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practise ourselves the kind of behaviour we expect from other people.”  

C.S. Lewis

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The Diary of a Bible

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JANUARY: A busy time for me. Most of the family decided to read me through this year. They kept me busy for the first two weeks, but they have forgotten me now.

FEBRUARY: Clean-up time. I was dusted yesterday and put in my place. My owner did use me for a few minutes last week. He had been in an argument and was looking up some references to prove he was right.

MARCH: Had a busy day first of the month. My owner was elected president of the PTA & used me to prepare a speech.

APRIL: Grandpa visited us this month. He kept me on his lap for an hour reading I Cor 13. He seems to think more of me than do some people in my own household.

MAY: I have a few green stains now. Some spring flowers were pressed in my pages. I suppose this was bound to happen– after all, it is spring!

JUNE: I look like a scrapbook. They have stuffed me full of newspaper clippings – one of the girls was married. I get to hold the “glad tidings.”

JULY: They put me in a suitcase today. I guess we are off on vacation. I wish I could stay home; I know I’ll be closed up in this thing for at least two weeks.

AUGUST: Drat. Still in the suitcase.

SEPTEMBER: Back home at last and in my old familiar place. I have a lot of company. Two women’s magazines and four comic books are stacked on top of me. I wish I could be read as much as they are.

OCTOBER: They read me a little bit today. One of them is very sick. Right now I am sitting in the center of the coffee table. I think the Pastor is coming by for a visit.

NOVEMBER: Back in my old place. Somebody asked today if I were a scrapbook.

DECEMBER: The family is busy getting ready for the holidays. I guess I’ll be covered up under wrapping paper & packages again … just as I am every Christmas.

I recently came across a statistic claiming that only about 10% of professing Christians have read the entire Bible. Does the other 90% include you? Guilt is not the reason for this post, but I do want to encourage my readers to pick it up and read. It is not an ordinary book.

16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”

2 Timothy 3:16

“The vigor of our spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the place held by the Bible in our life and thoughts.”

— George Muller

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A Towel, Not a Title

There are no shortcuts in discipleship
“Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist.”  

John 13:3-4, NLT

Jesus was always constant.  Nothing could erode His place or position.  The authority had been His Fathers, and it had been given to Him.  He carried it as a special burden, treasured and separating Him.  Jesus had the freedom to act like the servant.  It didn’t bother or confuse Him, He understood perfectly who He was.

With the supreme authority given to him, he got down on His knees, and began to wash dirty feet.  I can offer no magic or flair to adjust this scene.  He washed off dirt, cleaned between toes, making filthy feet clean.  And all of this ‘as God in human flesh’.  This staggered the disciples, perhaps a baseball bat on the side of the head, would’ve been more compassionate.

This was revolutionary, it completely devastated the disciples.  They just couldn’t grasp what was happening.  Jesus, who was ‘God in flesh’, had decided, in a moment of time, to clean their feet.  Outrageous!  Not really happening!  No way! Never!

The reality.

This spun them around.  They tried as fast as possible to process what had just happened, and ‘who’ it had happened from.

Essentially, it buried them.  Jesus Christ, as Servant pounded them into the ground.  Servanthood was to take the supremacy from this point forward.  Becoming an indentured slave was now the way of Christlikeness.  This servanthood was to now guide us to a point of slavery.

Gone are the days of Zebedee, when one can ask for a position, on the right or the left.  We can ask, most certainly, but we haven’t been the first.  We can ask but the sheer weight is against us.  So very many have gone before us.  We must become a people who accept, and then presses into His grace, His specialness, His presence.

Today, more towels are what we need.

We have got to turn over our ‘need’ for recognition and pick up from the pile the rag of servanthood, we must ‘ask’ our brother/sister if we can scrub their feet.  We must get on our knees and do the unspeakable.  We must find a way to clean off their feet. This dear one, is what you’ve been told to do.

“There are many of us that are willing to do great things for the Lord, but few of us are willing to do little things.”   D.L. Moody

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