The Disappointing Fig Tree

“Well, THAT was unexpected!” I remember saying this when I and my friends went to a particular movie together years ago. We thought this was going to be a comedy, but it turned out to be quite an inappropriate drama. We all decided to leave when we realized we weren’t going to have the experience we expected.

That’s what happens when you’re disappointed. You end up having to confront the absents of what you expected to be there. You expect to get good customer service when you shop. You expect to get your problem dealt with when you go to the DMV to get your license. You expect to be taken seriously when you share your deeply held beliefs. And then your expectations aren’t met. It’s enough to make you angry or disappointed or even lose faith.

Of course, we have the added challenge to discern if our expectations are reasonable. But that isn’t the case with the Son of God in His earthly ministry. He created the world to fulfill His expectations for His creation, and He entered the world that had fallen from that lofty expectation!

Look at our lesson today in Mark 11:11-23:

At that time, Jesus entered Jerusalem, and went into the temple; and when he had looked round at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

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.

And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons, and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he taught, and said to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and sought a way to destroy him; for they feared him, because all the multitude was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city.

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 which 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 cast 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.”

The story is very familiar to us. The Lord is hungry so He naturally goes to a fig tree to get some figs. After all, that’s the purpose of a fig tree; to produce figs. The Lord’s expectation was dashed to disappointment when the fig tree produced no fruit. The Lord then says “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”

Then the story shifts to the Lord going to the Temple in Jerusalem and finding that some had set up a bazaar in the Court of the Gentiles, a place intended to be a spot on the Temple grounds where even non-Jews could get to know the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But the place was reduced to a noisy shopping center where prayer was the last thing on anybody’s mind. Jesus then cleans house and reminds these folks that His Father’s House was intended to be a House of Prayer! The Temple wasn’t producing the “fruit” of its intended purpose!

Of course, the leaders in the Temple were furious with Jesus and sought to kill Him because they feared Him. And they were right to fear Him. He was the end of their theft of the true purpose of the Faith and the Temple.

The final scene from this story is powerful. The disciples notice when they pass the fig tree the next day that it had withered and died. What a powerful testimony of the only result possible when the purpose of existence is forgotten or abandoned.

Today, you were made for a Purpose. Your life was created and given to you to produce the “fruit” of the Spirit. When we foolishly ignore or, worse yet, live unaware of our purpose, our lives wither not having the power of our purpose to fill us with the Life of the Spirit. You were created to become by grace what Christ is by nature. That’s the only way for your life to produce the fruit of being Orthodox on Purpose!

P.S. Dear Lord, please help me today to remember WHY You gave me life and made me in Your image. Help me to so be filled with that purpose that lesser temptations to live beneath my true calling are ignored by me so that my heart, created to be Your temple in my life, will be filled with prayer and not the selfish “moneychangers” of mere existence. Amen.

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