Summary: We must perform what we promise and practice what we profess. When we do, God will give power through prayer.
Bearing Fruit for Jesus Mark 11:12-14 & 20-25
INTRO.: The fig tree had a very important part in life and literature in the Holy Land in Jesus’ day. In fact, the Promised Land was described by Moses as a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey;" To live in safety under one’s "own vine and fig tree" was expressive of prosperity and peace. I Kings 4:25. "There was a proverb that said, He who tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who looks after his master will be honored." (Prov. 27:18). A native tree, they were especially bountiful in the foothills of Palestine.
On the Monday preceding His death, Jesus was on His way from Bethany to Jerusalem for what turned out to be a violent confrontation with Jewish leaders. As He leaves the little village of Bethany, He pauses at the sight of a fig tree. Noting leaves on the tree, He goes to it seeking fruit but finds none. He then speaks to the tree for the benefit of His disciples who heard Him; "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." A statement made later indicates that the disciples considered this a curse. V. 21
Jesus had nothing against the fig tree. It was only being a fig tree. It was not the season for figs. He did not speak in anger. The significant statement is that the disciples heard. The lesson was for them.
After the incident with the fruitless fig tree, the Lord enters Jerusalem and violently confronts a fruitless religious establishment. The next day, when the disciples see the tree withered, they will remember what went on in the temple. They will learn that Jesus does not tolerate institutions that do not bear fruit for Him.
There are also some lessons for us as a Church and as individuals:
I. We should perform what we promise:
A. This tree promised fruit because it had leaves. Very few of the figs would be ripe the week before Passover, but there should be some.
1. Ripeness is a matter of taste. I know one tree on a college campus where the figs never ripen (in my opinion) because the students have a different concept of ripeness than I have and they pick the figs before I am even interested in them.
2. This tree may have been diseased or suffered from a late frost. It may have "gone wild" because of neglect, who knows?
3. Of course, the tree is not important. The lesson is!
B. Israel had failed to keep the promises she made to God:
1. She had violated her covenant with Him but He would never violate His end.
2. Every covenant has two sides. Each party must agree to certain conditions. The covenant, unlike a contract, can’t be broken by mutual agreement.
3. God’s covenant, briefly stated, is "If you will obey me, I will bless you and give you a rich land. If you disobey me, I will destroy you." Dt. 8:8-11 & 19
4. Now, Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem and confront the violators. He uses the fig tree as an object lesson for His disciples to show He is about to fulfill His covenant with Israel. As the people of God, Israel’s days are numbered.
C. Matt. 21:28-31 Jesus taught that promise without performance is unacceptable.
1. God cut Israel off because she failed to keep her promises. The fig tree withered because it promised fruit but didn’t deliver.
2. Stop and think! Have you ever made a promise to God that you violated? Not one you couldn’t keep, but one you chose not to keep? How will God deal with you unless you repent?
3. Preachers hear so many insincere promises it is almost a relief to hear, "I won’t make any promises, but I’ll do my best." It’s alright to promise, but be sure you mean to perform what you promise.
II. We must practice what we profess:
A. This tree professed to being a fruit tree. A person had a right to expect fruit from it because it’s leaves and stems looked like a fig tree’s.
1. It didn’t take long for the Lord to expose it for what it was; an empty, fruitless pretender.
2. Like the Grape Ivy in the woods. It takes a real expert to distinguish it from a grape vine except it never bears grapes.
3. There are many who claim to be Christian. Only Jesus knows their hearts. We can see their fruit and make an educated guess. Does the way they live line up with their claims?
4. There are many sincere Christians who need to mature, so we must be careful even in judging men by their fruit.