Summary: This sermon (and the included Children’s Sermon) are designed to emphasize that God gives us all the resources we need to grow and bear fruit; He therefore anticipates that we will do just that.
The Virtuous Kingdom: Evidence of the Reign of God in the Human Heart
The Virtue of Fruitfulness
Mark 11 12-14; 20-21
Sermon Objective: God gives us all the resources we need to grow and bear fruit; He therefore anticipates that we will do just that!
We are looking at Mark chapter 11 for the next few weeks. We have chosen to look at it from specific vantage points … to look at some of the Kingdom virtues God has imparted to the believer. The chapter shows our sovereign King making His way into his Holy City and temple for an official inspection. In doing so, He declares His reign.
“The Virtuous Kingdom: Evidence of the Reign of God in the Human Heart” is an appropriate title for such an event.
We have already looked at verses 1-11 and saw the power and importance of living a lifestyle of worship.
Last week we looked at 11:15-17. We praised God for the great gift of prayer. There are so few parameters with prayer and so many blessings! We dare not neglect such a privilege.
In coming weeks we will look at forgiveness (11:20-25) and submission (11:1-6 & 27-33).
But today we will look at Mark 11:12-14 & 20-21.
12The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14Then he said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard him say it.
20In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21Peter remembered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!"
That is an interesting and peculiar story isn’t it? There is none other like it in the Gospels. At first glance it appears that Jesus is pouting and taking his frustration out on a fig tree that wasn’t even supposed to have fruit on it yet. But we know this is out of character for Jesus. He isn’t that petty. Besides … he has already proven the he trusts God to provide all his needs and, if push comes to shove, he can create food out of nothing!
So what is going on here? Well, it goes right back to the King and his official inspection of the Holy City and its temple. It goes right back to Jesus’ search for evidence that God’s reign has come to his people.
What you have here is a sermon in object-lesson form. Sometimes you can grasp a truth better by seeing it than you can by hearing it.
Mark uses an interesting literary device in his Gospel. You can find it in 3:20-35; 5:21-43; 6:7-30; 14:1-11 and here in 11:15-21. Mark likes to insert one incident (in this case the cleansing of the temple) into another (the cursing of the fig tree). This device is called “intercalation” or “bracketing” and it is used to show the relationship between two incidents that might not otherwise be readily seen as related.
In other words, the cursing of the fig tree tells us something about the cleansing of the temple and the cleansing of the temple informs the cursing of the fig tree.
Interesting enough, the tree was doing exactly what it was supposed to do at this time of year! It was NOT supposed to be bearing figs yet. However, it served a bigger purpose … a living (and dying) parable of the Jewish faith as evidenced by their refusal to recognize Christ’s reign.
Israel, like the fig tree, was barren when Jesus came to her.
So, what can we learn from this story? What do we discover about God’s reign in our hearts and lives?
We discover that God ANTICIPATES “spiritual fruit.” God expects us to grow, mature, reproduce, and become like Jesus.
This is a parable of condemnation for
PROMISE WITHOUT FULFILLMENT
The people of Israel never fulfilled their potential. Their whole religion was designed around a people anticipating and ready to receive their Messiah. They failed at this basic purpose when He came.
God has expectations for your life too. When Christ’s reign comes to a heart it becomes filled with Divine potential. God inspects and expects that potential to turn into tangible fruit … evidence of His reign.
Earlier in the Gospel Jesus spoke about this. In Mark 4 Jesus tells this story:
"Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times."