Merciful limitations.

Good Monday Morning to this week 37 of 2019

Observing at a distance a fig tree full of leaves, he went up to it to see if he could find any fruit upon it. but when he came to it, he found it had nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for that sort of fig. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again”. And his disciples heard him say it. Mark 11:13+14

Last night I enjoyed an evening tour on the Bielersee with many sightings of the beautiful Church of Ligerz at a distance, far and near, in various shades of the evening light, reminding me of the importance it once and wondering about the relevance to this day.

The pilgrimage church of Ligerz was first mentioned in 1261. It was built in the vineyards above the village. It became a parish church of its own parish in 1434 but was still dependent until being rebuilt in 1526. Until the early 19th century there were no good roads into Ligerz, instead, goods and travelers came by boat. The church amidst the vineyards is visible from a long distance and is, therefore, the landmark to Ligerz and the region.

Back to the parable of the Fig tree being seen from far, covered in nice leaves:

Fig trees around Jerusalem normally begin to get leaves in March or April and do not produce figs until their leaves are all out in June. This tree was an exception that it was full of leaves early.

Jesus, approaches the tree in his hunger, with the expectation of finding fruit. But as he draws near, he realizes the fact that the tree, though full of leaf, is absolutely fruitless, he forgets his natural hunger. As he approached this fig tree full of leaf, but destitute of fruit, it stood before him as a striking or awful image of the Jewish nation, having indeed the leaves of a great profession, but yielding no fruit. The leaves of this fig tree deceived the passer-by, who, from seeing them, would naturally expect the fruit. And so the fig tree was cursed, not for being barren, but for being false.

A  church or community or individual whose religion runs to leaf is useless if it brings forth no fruit or furthermore being false. Do those around care about the ceremonials or the outward appearance, more than it bearing fruit?

These words of Jesus, in their application also have a merciful limitation – a limitation which lies in the original words rendered “forever,” which literally mean for the current age. “No man eat the fruit during the age until the times be fulfilled. A day will doubtless come when those concerned will say, “I am a dry tree,” I shall accept the words of Him and respond, “From me shall thy fruit be found,” and shall be clothed with the richest fruits of all trees.

Here the fig tree was growing by the road; it belonged to no one, and nothing had been done for its improvement;  it was destroyed when its uselessness was made manifest. It was fruitless, because the fruit season had not come, and no old fruit remained on the branches. The destruction of a senseless and worthless thing made known the power of God, the purpose not just to wither, but all the more to restore. To wither was within the power of anyone, but to wither by a word was a supernatural act only possible to one.

Jesus gives his answer or interpretation of the parable with these words:

“Have faith in God.”

In doing. The words “shall say unto this mountain,” are figurative. A magnificent promise! Not only such an act as the withering of the fig tree, but one comparable to the uprooting of the Mount of Olives on which it grew. It is spoken of moral and spiritual difficulties met, within fulfilling the great plan of God along with personal and individual spiritual growth.

In receiving the answer was not to be merely looked forward to a coming age, but of an age being imminent, already fulfilling itself in present experience. A secret of intense and successful devotion.

The story teaches us that the Master looks for fruit in the proper time for fruit. In the case of this tree, “the time was not yet.” Figs come before leaves on that kind of tree. So the appearance of leaves assumed the presence of fruit underneath them, but none was there. For some phenomenal reason, this fig tree was a hypocrite. Jesus caught it for a parable with which to teach His disciples, and warn them of mere profession without performance. God does not, in any case, come hurridly demanding fruit, as soon as trees are planted; He seems to respect the laws of growth and ripening. He never hurries any creature of His hand. But He gives help to the end He proposes. He certainly puts realities before shows; figs previous to leaves.

Not all is lost. When the disciples ask Jesus to explain what just happened, he turns the topic and talks about prayer. Why? Though they do not yet fully understand, they will be the new caretakers of God’s people. They will be instruments of transformation. And, as Jesus teaches here, they will do this by the power of faithful prayer. Thus the fig tree cursing is not just about historical Israel. It’s about us. It’s about all the people of God throughout time.

A challenging text this morning, yet full of promises. Knowing all too well about things withering, areas in our lives with no fruit, of times not being fulfilled. I draw from the thought that Jesus shared, as he turned to the concept of merciful limitation and the importance of prayer.

Wishing merciful limitations, along with transformation and restoration

of areas in your lives that have withered and no longer bring fruit.

Philemon

 

Kirche Ligerz, Bielersee, Saturday 07.09.2019, 19h30
Screenshot 2019-09-08 at 14.21.06

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