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Cut out the Fruitless

Mark 11:12-14 (ESV)

12 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 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. 14 And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

In our reading today, Jesus curses a fig tree because it was not bearing fruit.  Later the disciples encountered this tree again, and they took note that it had withered and died.  Mark tells us that it was not the season for figs, so why did Jesus expect it to bear fruit?  What is this story telling us?

Fig trees have a unique growing cycle.  They bear their fruit, figs, late summer or early fall.  The next year new shoots form, and these new shoots bear the fig.  Between these growing cycles though, in the spring, as the leaves begin to show, the old shoots produce something special.  It is a miniature fruit called a breba.  It was never harvested, it was considered peasant grazing food.  A fig tree with no breba was a sure sign of sickness or death.  A tree like this would not bear figs, and the farmer would cut it down to make room for a new tree that year.  Jesus was not looking for figs, he was looking for signs of life, he was looking for a breba.  

After cursing the fig tree for being fruitless, Jesus went to the temple and found that God's house had been turned into a marketplace.  He cleared the temple of the money changers and merchants.  The old growth of religion had no breba for the poor.  In the end he toppled all of their structures making room for new growth, the foundations of our faith today.

As we discuss the fruit of the spirit in church, we might take a fig farmer's approach to examining our own lives.  Examine the things we spend our time, money, and energy on.  If they bear fruit or breba, let them be, but cut them out to make room for new growth if they are fruitless.  What in your life is stealing your energy?

Lord, help us to examine our lives with brutal honesty.  Help us to see the early warning signs of things that no longer bear fruit.  Give us the strength to cut it out, so that you can grow something new within us.  


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