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Nothing but leaves

SETTING THE PACE / Living life with an eternal perspective

In Mark chapter 11, there is a very unusual story recorded regarding something very curious that Jesus does. Jesus' actions, while on the surface, do not make immediate sense, bring forth some very profound truth upon deeper investigation. Everything Jesus did, He did on purpose and this story is no exception.

As Jesus was walking toward Jerusalem, he grew hungry. He and His disciples approached a fig tree He spotted in the distance. This fig tree was "in leaf," meaning it was preparing for its coming harvest of figs. Even though the fig harvesting season was another month or so away, the leaves indicated there should be some immature or unripe fruit present. However, as Jesus approached the tree, He found there was nothing but leaves. No fruit was to be found. Upon seeing that, He cursed the tree and said “May no one ever eat fruit from you again”. This was a strange event. Was Jesus just angry because He was hungry and the tree bore no fruit, or was there a deeper message?

After leaving the tree, Jesus and His disciples entered Jerusalem. As they arrived, they went to the temple. Upon entering, they saw a horrific site; the temple had become a place of corruption. Abuse, extortion, theft, and injustice were all happening in the name of God. Religious leaders were taking advantage of the weak and helpless, in order to make money. Jesus saw this and was filled with holy anger. He began driving people out of the temple and shouting, "Is not this to be a place of prayer for the nations, yet you've turned it into a den of robbers?" In a powerful moment, Jesus reminded everyone what true worship was all about.

How does all this connect? What does the cursing of a fig tree have to do with the cleansing of the temple? In short, everything. The fig tree was an illustration of what the temple had become. The fig tree's big leaves promised fruit, but upon examining the tree, all that was found was nothing but leaves. Likewise, the Jewish religious leaders had a nice temple that promised big things, but upon examining it, all that was found was phony, hypocritical religion. Jesus cursed the fig tree to show the curse He was placing on the temple. It is highly offensive to God to pretend to be something that you are not, especially when you’re doing it in His name.

These two events have significant implications for Christians and the church today. The religious leaders in Jesus' day were propagating a religion that was "nothing but leaves." What they offered gave the appearance of life, but as you got close to it, you saw it was dead and empty. This is not the way it is supposed to be. As unbelievers draw near to Christians and the church, our "leaves" should point to "fruit." In other words, what Christians should offer the world is something real and authentic, not fake and hypocritical.

Jesus did not come to make us pretenders and only give the appearance of life. He came to give real life. Jesus said, "I have come to give life and life more abundantly." This is why the Apostle John said, "He who finds the Son (Jesus) finds life." If people draw near to us and find nothing but leaves, it reveals we are not who we say we are. A Christian's leaves (talk), needs to genuinely point to fruit (walk). In other words, what we say and do, need to authentically point to Jesus.

This week, if you claim to be a Christian, seek to genuinely live out your faith. The world needs to see real, honest, and humble Christians who walk with God. We all sin and we all struggle, but we just need to admit it and stop pretending like we do not. Let the world see your faults and failures, but let them also see the forgiveness and life you have in Christ. Let them see more than leaves. Let them see fruit. See you next week!

Jeremy Freeman


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