Did you hear the story about the preacher who walked around naked to get his point across? It actually happened—Isaiah walked around naked and barefoot to symbolize the “stripping” of Egypt (Isa 20:1-6).
Not exactly a traditional three-point sermon, but I’d bet his audience never forgot it. Jeremiah acted out a sermon as well, retrieving a spoiled loincloth to symbolize the humiliation of Judah (Jer 13:1-11). Later he wore a yoke around his neck to represent enslavement to the king of Babylon (27:1-15; 28:10-17).
Sometimes God’s people tell stories. And sometimes, when they really need to make a point, they act them out. Near the end of his time on earth, Jesus decided to give his disciples a visual lesson, what some people call a “dramatized parable.”
On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it. . . . As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:12-14, 20-25).
That’s a weird story, isn’t it? It’s the only time Jesus ever cursed anything. Did he lose his temper? Why would he curse a fig tree for not producing figs when they were out of season? It’s a tough passage, but the simple explanation is probably the best one: Israel—God’s people—hadn’t produced fruit and would, therefore, be rejected.
God had sent Jesus to Abraham’s descendants, and they had almost completely rejected him. God would turn his face away from Israel as his chosen people.
We see a broader message here that applies beyond Israel, of course. When God blesses people, he expects fruit. He expects us to use his gifts to his glory. Take a minute and reflect on everything God has done in your life. What relationships are you in? Did you grow up in a Christian home? What talents do you have? Do you have children? Material things? A job? Time? Has God saved you?
I sometimes wonder why God chose me to be reared in a Christian home and learn about Jesus from the time I was born. Why all these opportunities to be blessed by good people? Why do we have good health? Why do we have encouraging contexts in which to serve? I have no idea, but it’s good to pause and reflect.
It probably won’t take you long to create a long list of great things God has done for you. Talents, opportunities, blessings, all from the hand of God.
That ought to motivate us to go make some figs this week . . . —Chuck