Summary: From the Parable of Jesus, lessons we can learn from the fig tree.
Lessons from the Fig Tree
* As a primary in Sunday school, my teachers taught me to define a parable in this way: “It is a earthly story told by Jesus which has a heavenly meaning.” I guess the only way I would amend this is to say that it has a “divine” (instead of heavenly) meaning. For me, the word heavenly means “wonderful”, “great”, and even “peaceful.” Yet, some stories of Jesus do not end this way. In fact, Jesus is not a “pie in the sky, by and by” type of teacher. Thinking about this type of ending, leads me to Luke 13:6-9. Read.
* Throughout scripture, the theological fig tree is the nation Israel. Perhaps I should develop our thoughts tonight along these lines of thinking, but I prefer the more basic and simpler thoughts. There is a very simple, yet profound message here for us. Let’s reconfigure the story a bit. The fig tree is no longer the nation of Israel, it is me and you.
* The story begins like this, “A man HAD a fig tree that was planted in HIS vineyard.” This phrase tells us several things;
1. The Possession of the Fig Tree – The Owner possessed the tree. It was His. No one could or would argue the point because he obviously owned the land, field, and all that is therein. He needs no one’s permission for anything He does, He’s the owner. Everything and everyone on His land obeys Him. Both my dad and dad-in-law have fig trees in their yards and guess what, they watch over those fig trees. Because they own the tree they check for bugs, birds, and all the rest. They protect, care for, and oversee every part of the fig tree’s existence.
2. The Presence of the Fig Tree – This tree in HIS garden gave Him the expectation of things to come. It was not a baby tree, it was not a neglected tree, and it was not a diseased tree. From our reading we can easily assume (by the attitude of the owner) that is was a tree which held some promise. Additionally (by the attitude of the vineyard worker) it was a tree which was thought substandard. This was a tree taking up space in the vineyard of the master and carried the expectation of functioning.
3. The Purpose of the Fig Tree – We need to pause here to make something completely clear. Purpose for a person’s life (or a tree) did not originate with the “purpose-driven” books and people of today. Part of the problems seen today among God’s people is that we have little clue about our God given purpose in life. We go along to get along and wait to die.
* Without apology or reservation, every tree has a purpose. The purpose of the fig tree is to produce figs. Obviously, when the owner came out to check the tree, he expected to see some fruit. He knew the tree and knew what it was capable of and went LOOKING, seeking, or sought fruit. The Greek word means to “seek in order to find” and to “seek in such a way so as to demand or require”. It is the same word used in Mark 8 when Jesus was debating with the Pharisees and He asked, “Why does this generation demand a sign?” The owner felt he was justified in expecting something from His fig tree in His garden in which he had time & energy invested.
* Now, let’s pause and reflect just for a few minutes; for those who have come to Christ, we are His possession. We have been bought with a price. This means we are no longer are independent or in control of our lives, we are now His. As a child of His we are in His Kingdom. He freely gives us all we need to grow, mature, and even fight off the diseases of the evil one. Here is the clincher, just as surely as the garden owner expects something from his tree, so does our Lord expect something from us. The fig tree is expected to produce figs. The disciples of Jesus are expected to produce disciples of Jesus. We can debate or doubt this, but the facts are clear.
4. The Problem with the Fig Tree – We read the master came looking for fruit and found NONE!! Don’t miss this, HE CAME EXPECTING TO GET SOME FRUIT. The only way the fig tree could fulfill its purpose and justify its existence was to produce fruit. This truth is one of the great missing links in the American church today. In point of fact, we don’t think this is such a big deal. This explains why congregations die and believers are passive. The body has become diseased and is not producing fruit. Baptisms are down, discipleship is almost non-existent, gifts of the spirit lay dormant, and the result is the fruits of the spirit are in short supply. One of the truths we need to grasp and carry with us is this; just as the master expects something of HIS possession so does God expects something of HIS people.