When I can only see what is visible.
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This is the state of our yard as of this morning. It looks pretty desolate. We have not had rain in about 30 days. Yesterday, as I watered a tree, a grasshopper tried to drown itself in the floodwaters. It’s a far cry from the bustling life and colorful wildflowers of our recent wet summer.
“Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.
When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.”
Matthew 21:18-20 New International Version
I’ve often tried to read past these verses. They make me uncomfortable. Is Jesus really this ruthless? There is a similar story in Mark 11 where Jesus curses a fig tree for not bearing fruit even though Mark notes that it was not the season for figs. Really?! Come on Jesus! Where is the mercy? How can Jesus treat this tree with such harsh disdain?
I realize that the reason I don’t like these stories is that I often feel like this fig tree. Fruitless. Will Jesus treat me this way? Will He tire of my asking forgiveness for the same sin over and over?
But in the broader context this story is not about the fig tree and the point is not that I am like this fig tree. The point is that Jesus is about to show Himself as the Lord over all that we see. The seasons are not in charge. The weather itself is under His command. Jesus transcends the natural order. If even this fig tree has to obey Him, how much more will the government and religious establishment bow to Him? If He is in control of the natural realm, He is also King over the spiritual realm.
When I am feeling fruitless and I’m focused on what I can see, Jesus comes along and declares that He holds the power over this barren land. He is the one Who is ultimately fruitful. In Him, we are all part of the abundant harvest of the Kingdom. I may feel fruitless, but He is not.
Photo and text copyright David Brukiewa