A Withering Look
Holy God, I am so grateful that You listen to me. I can talk honestly to You, and You see me through my petulance.
Consider: "If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). We need to constantly keep this truth before us.
With up to half a million pilgrims in Jerusalem at Passover, most, like Jesus (17), stayed in the countryside around. On the way back in the morning, he enacts another parable, this time with a fig tree (19). It was double-edged. The fig tree was a common image for Israel (Hos. 9:10; Mic. 7:1-6; Jer. 8:13) and so this withered tree was an image of fruitless Israel. As in Jesus' parable of the vineyard (John 15:5-6), fruitlessness leads to severe pruning. On the other hand, the incident was also a lesson in faith. The disciples were far more interested in how the tree withered than in its significance (20). Jesus' point is that the withering of a fruitless tree is the least of what they might achieve. With God, anything is possible (22).
Later, in the Temple area, Jesus' teaching attracts the attention of the chief priests and elders of the people (23). After all that he has done and taught these past few days, the best they can ask is what authority he has (23). That's today's box-checking culture at its worst--but these are the leaders of God's people, not bureaucrats! Do you see that anywhere in your Christian world? Or, even worse, in yourself?
Jesus answers in true rabbinic fashion--by asking another question (25). This is ironic given that the subtext of their question is that he hadn't had the proper rabbinic training. The trap they set for him became a trap for them. Answer A would make them look stupid at the least and disobedient to God at worst (25). Answer B would turn the people against them, risking their own power and authority, if not more (26). They took the coward's way out (27). Are we in a position to criticize their leadership?
In what ways are you experiencing God's pruning in your life? How are you addressing these matters? Pray for grace and strength to cooperate so that you will be more fruitful.
Lord, Your pruning in my life is not a pleasant thing, but it is necessary. I submit to Your work because I long to be more fruitful.
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