Early this past season, my family went on a hike, specifically looking for salmon berries. We have found that Father’s Day is the usual time for this local Washington State berry to often be edible for hiker’s in-the-know and who like to tantalize their taste buds as they warm up their trekking muscles. To our disappointment, this year the berries were late in coming into season.
Jesus had a similar desire, but one which had much more profound implications for Christians. Our family-time study through the book Claiming Christ considered the comparison between Jesus words about abiding in the vine, recorded in John 15, and the incident with the fig tree at the time Jesus was heading to the temple to drive out the money changers.
The central thread through our devotion revolves around the idea of what Scripture implies in calling Christians to be “in him”. Our Lord has a particular interest in his followers producing fruit–fruit that reflects his own heart, character, nature, and desire.
That reality, however, does not develop by our own straining or effort, for branches only express from what flows through their veins. As Jesus declared, “you are clean because of the word I spoke”. It is the result of Jesus’ righteousness, his works and words, that cause a believer to stand in righteousness before a holy God.
And yet he expects us to produce fruit. John records that the reason for the fruit is to “show” that we are true Christians, disciples of the Lord Most High. Fruit is intended to display proof of our claim.
Many will say Lord, Lord. They will want to claim identification with Christ, but if they are absent of the Christ-likeness evidence in their works (as Scripture calls it), then Jesus threatens to curse the tree so that it can never produce fruit again.
These are not easy words to hear. Perhaps that is one of the reasons the warnings in Jn 15 and Mk 11 are seemingly skirted around. It reminds me of the Pharisees who would cross over to the other side of the road in order to avoid being close to people who were different from them. We should not be that way with the Word of God.
We are told that the fig tree appeared healthy even though it was not fig season, but as Jesus passed by, it was his season, and he expected fruit. The time had come for exercising judgment by the One who sustains all life. As we are instructed elsewhere, “be prepared in season and out”.
That tree failed and was eternally cursed. As the disciples left the dramatic display of cleansing of the Temple by Jesus, they passed by that fig tree and witnessed what happens to a living entity that has had its purpose of life cut off. In the matter of hours it had withered and died–there was no further purpose for its existence.
Moral? It would appear that Jesus is serious about his command:
What it means to be “in him” is measured by the evidence of Christ-like character displayed in our lives. Such works never earn our salvation, nor our righteousness, nor our favor in God’s sight; they do, however, reveal whether or not our claim of Christianity reflects the transforming power of Almighty God.
God tells us that his Spirit will never return to him empty. If that spiritual sap flows through our veins, and we do not quench it by persisting in willful rebellion that could corrode our circulatory system, then his fruit will be evident hanging from our lives and providing nourishment to the weary hikers around us.
Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” (Eze 47:12; compare with Rev 22:2)
Remain in him! Seek to produce the fruit that reflects the presence of Jesus in you. Show yourself to be his disciple.
Have you discovered that your season is Today?