Poor Little Fig Tree

On Tuesday, I wrote a post entitled Anything, which looked at the awesome power of prayer. Yesterday, I shared a post called – A Fig Tree – which picked up that theme, and was written by the excellent blogger Bruce Cooper. Some comments on these posts highlighted to me that many do not fully understand the poor little fig tree that Jesus cursed. It is my intention to help you today to grasp why Jesus treated it so harshly.

Let’s look at Mark’s Gospel, which is the parallel account from Matthew 21. Mark splits the story in two halves; so I put the two together here.

In the morning when they were on the way out of Bethany, Jesus was hungry.

13 He saw a fig tree a little way off with leaves on it. So he went to see if it had figs. He came to the tree. There was no fruit on it, only leaves. It was not the time for figs.

14 Jesus said to the tree, `No one will ever eat a fig from you again!’ His disciples heard what he said.

Mark 11:12-14 WEB

19 In the evening Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.

20 The next morning they passed the fig tree again. They saw that it had died from the roots.

21 Peter remembered about it. He said, `Look Master, you cursed the fig tree and it has died.’

22 Jesus said, `Believe in God.

23 I tell you the truth. Anyone may say to this hill, “Go and jump into the sea.” He must not doubt in his heart, but he must believe that he will have the things he asks for and he will have them.

24 So I tell you, when you ask God for anything believe that you will get it and you will have it.

Mark 11:19-24 WEB

So, Jesus wants some breakfast. Seeing the fig tree (from a distance presumably), the green leaves make the promise of fresh fruit. As He examines the tree, He find not one fig. Jesus is clearly displeased and curses the tree, saying no one will ever eat of it again.

In the second half of the story, Jesus and His disciples pass the very same tree and find it withered. They are amazed, and Jesus uses it as a teaching opportunity about the power of prayer and faith.

Many people feel rather sorry for this poor little fig tree. I mean, did it really do anything wrong? Or at least, did it do anything so wrong it deserved to be cursed unto death?

If you do feel sorry for the tree, then I have to tell you that you have misunderstood the point of the text. This fig tree was a phony – worse, it was a liar. It displayed its leaves to the world, offering the promise of fruit and nourishment, but did not deliver. It said one thing, and did another.

The key to understanding this picture is to read what happens in between the two halves of the account.

15 They reached Jerusalem. Jesus went into the temple. He began to drive out the people who were buying and selling in the temple. He threw down the tables of the money changers. He pushed down the seats of those who sold doves.

16 He would not let anyone carry anything through the temple.

17 He taught the people, saying, `The holy writings say, “My house shall be called a house for all tribes and nations, where people talk with God.” But you have made it a place for people who steal!’

18 The chief priests and scribes heard what he said. They wanted to find some way to kill him. They feared Jesus because all the people were surprised at his teaching.

Mark 11:15-18 WEB

Jesus goes into the temple, and not for the first time, creates something of a disturbance. The temple – the place where people could come and approach God in prayer – has been turned into a market. Complex systems of monetary exchange, purchasing of animals for sacrifice and a general lack of respect enrage the Lord and He turfs them out.

Look at how the priests react in verse 18. They want to kill Him! Why? Because they were likely benefitting from the state of affairs in the temple. Rather than revering the temple’s holiness, they have profited from those seeking to approach God. Jesus is incredibly displeased by this.

The key is this: the priest, who display the outward appearance of holiness, have no true fruit to offer. Like the fig tree, they put out their leaves – wearing fine robes, quoting Scripture, enforcing the Law, applying human traditions to temple worship, and so on. In their hearts however, they do not keep the Law of God, and make it harder to approach God instead of serving the people. They were phonies.

So what is the lesson for us? Are we to go around cursing unfruitful trees? Or ought we to go into church and start turning over tables and chairs? Of course not!

The point is that you and I, by bearing the name of Christ, are displaying leaves to the world. We represent Jesus in our homes, places of work and community, and when people come looking for fruit, we had better make sure they find it.

Don’t carry around a Bible under your arm and be as mean as a snake to those you meet. Don’t put a fish sticker on your car, and then cut off another driver before speeding off into the sunset exceeding the limit. Don’t put “Christian” on your social profile and then share materials far less than holy.

Paul says this in 2 Corinthians 5:

So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

2 Corinthians 5:20 NLT

Christ does not live on the Earth in bodily form anymore, so the only way people can see Him is in us – His church. We represent Him, and we are His ambassadors. God is making His appeal to the world through us! That is a huge responsibility, and one we must all take seriously.

That is not to say we must be perfect, or can never make mistakes, but where possible we must endeavour to back up our words with actions.

Do not feel pity for the fig tree, instead learn its lesson. Be a tree which bears good fruit, and remember the world is watching.

A Fig Tree

Today I share some further thoughts on the fig tree from a fellow blogger Bruce Cooper. He gives us some further thoughts on the power of prayer but also its limitations. We cannot, for example, pray outside of God’s will.

Anyway, I shall leave it to Bruce to explain! I hope you enjoy the post and do encourage you to check out his blog.

I was reading a post by Andy Brown this morning, where Jesus curses a fig tree, as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, which you can view here. These …

A Fig Tree

One Thing I Ask (Re-post)

andy-brown.org/2022/01/29/one-thing-i-ask/

Just as He said He would

Happy Easter!

It was my privilege to share for a few minutes this morning at our early morning sunrise service on this Resurrection Sunday.

I share below a recording of the message which I hope you enjoy.

May you be eternally blessed this Easter weekend!

A message from Andy on Easter Sunday morningA message from Andy on Easter Sunday morning

Palm Sunday talk

A sermon I preached on Palm Sunday several years ago now… Hope you enjoy

Succeeding at Nothing

I really enjoyed reading this blog, and found it quite a personal challenge too.

When it comes to our motives, we must be honest with ourselves and ask why we are doing certain things.

I thoroughly enjoy writing my blog, and equally enjoy writing books. Do I do it for my own enjoyment though? Or do I do it for the Lord?

These are not always easy questions to answer. if, like me, you find yourself all too often checking your stats… Then you must also check your motivation!

I could say a great deal more about this subject, and find myself examining my own heart. I urge you to do the same as you read the post below. I do hope you enjoy it.

This blog seeks to prevent Christians from thinking of “self” and focusing on God.

Succeeding at Nothing

Work Hard

Some evenings I sit down after a hard day’s work and reflect on the day. I often ask myself how well I have represented God’s kingdom, and marking myself coming up short most of the time. Did I share my faith at any point? How much did I pray? Is God’s Kingdom any stronger because of my actions today?

These are good and important questions, and I was asking myself them only today. My answers were not so good if I am being honest. I didn’t share my faith outside of the blog. I did not pray nearly enough. I saw no impact on God’s Kingdom through any of my actions. Unsurprisingly this left me a little discouraged.

Thank the Lord that He is so kind to us though, and the very bearer of the gift of encouragement!

He reminded me that I had done a full day’s work, earning my pay which I would later receive. He then reminded me of this verse from Ephesians.

28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.

Ephesians 4:28 (NLT)

I am blessed to be able to say that I enjoy my work. That has not always been the case, but my present employment is fulfilling and although not Christian ministry, it does serve the wider society.

At the end of the day, even if I fail in a number of ways, I can know that the day’s work will result in a payslip, and that I can use that money to give to those in need. For the most part, that may be giving to the church or ministry in order to enable others to share the Good News. If I am not in the position to share it widely myself, I can at least support others who can.

Perhaps you are in secular employment, and like me wonder how your life contributes to God’s Kingdom. Let me suggest you do not work merely for yourself and to pay your bills, but also so that you might have something to give. I have met people whose ministry it was to be successful in business and to offer their entire profit margin to the Lord. That is no small thing.

Jesus taught of the Shrewd Servant in Luke 16, who misused his master’s money on himself and came under threat of losing his job. Instead of using that money to help himself, he then began to use it to win friends of the master’s debtors. Both ways were misusing the master’s money, but Jesus praised him in the second way because at least he used the funds for a future purpose.

Jesus pointed out the lesson in verse 9:

Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.

Luke 16:9 (NLT)

The lesson is clear. Use your earthly resources to benefit others and win friends. Notice that final phrase though, “to welcome you to an eternal home.” This suggests not only that we use our money to meet people’s physical needs, but their spiritual ones too. We can use our earthly money – which we cannot take with us – to fund the preaching of the Gospel, and that one day when we reach our eternal home, there will be people there to welcome us.

If you work a physical job, a secular role or something that seems disconnected to the Gospel, use the money you earn to spread God’s message throughout the world. It is not a waste of money, and rather an eternal investment. One day, someone will swing past your heavenly mansion and thank you for what you gave.

Work hard, as if working for the Lord Himself, because you are!


Precious Promises (2 Peter 1:3-4)

Last week I wrote a post called – Precious Faith – which looked at the opening words of Peter’s second letter. Having reminded his readers of his slavery and apostleship, and the like precious faith they share, Peter continues.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

2 Peter 1:3-4 (NLT)

Living A Godly Life

In his opening, Peter tells us that we share a faith given to us by God. Likewise here, we see another example of what God has given to us. Namely, everything!

Well, not strictly true… although I once heard a preacher say that this verse does mean just that. That God has given us everything we might want, need or desire. If we were not fallen, sinful creatures, then that might not be so bad.

Peter, however, does not mean literally everything but rather qualifies his words. God, by His power, has given us everything we need for “living a godly life.” God has indeed blessed us richly, and gives us what we need that we might live godly lives. He does not empower us to commit sin, nor to swallow up all we want in selfish greed.

It can be very difficult to be a Christian in today’s world. Some days it feels like we live on a different planet to the rest of the population. We are criticised, laughed at and persecuted, and at times it can feel almost impossible to live in a godly way.

Yet, Peter would encourage us by reminding us of what we have been given – everything! We can do it, because we have what we need. This is not to depend on ourselves to live righteously, but instead to draw on that “divine power” that the Holy Spirit brings. We live godly because we follow Christ, and want to be like Him. We have courage to stand out from the world even if it costs us something.

Verse 3 continues by saying we have received all of thins by coming to know Him – that is, the One who has called us by His marvellous glory and excellence. So, this means that we receive this as we come to know Jesus Christ. It is not received in church attendance, daily devotionals, doing good works (as profitable as those things are), but it is also about knowing Christ.

I am reminded of Paul’s words from Philippians:

Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ

Philippians 3:8 (NLT)

I have been challenged lately by asking myself how Christlike I am. I often do not feel a whole lot like Him, and as I examine what it means to be like Him, I have to first truly know Him. I challenge you in the same way today; are you Christlike? How well do you know Jesus?

Precious Promises

Last time, we thought about the precious faith we share, and now Peter points to precious promises.

And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

2 Peter 1:4 (NLT)

Because of His glory, because of how excellent Christ is, He has bestowed upon us promises as precious as our faith.

These promises allow us to share in Christ’s nature, and that is also what allows us to become Christlike. I hasten to point out that these promises are not given to us because we are good, have earned them or are superior to anyone else; no, they are given to us simply because we know the Lord.

The corruption of the world is what I touched on earlier. We are surrounded by sinfulness, and temptation seems to appear from every direction. How can we Christians escape such wickedness and not be overwhelmed by it? By receiving these very valuable promises, by drawing on Christ and all His strength and abiding in Him (as a branch linked to a vine) we can deny human (sinful) desire and seek the Spirit’s lead.

Practically, what does this all mean?

Put simply, I believe these verses point us back to God’s Word. We find these precious promises in the Bible. We come to know Christ fully as we see Him revealed in Scripture. As we study the Word, it changes us from the inside out and, over time, we become more like the Lord we serve.

Seek out those promises today. Read the Gospels and learn about who Jesus is. As you do so, you will be eternally blessed.

The Challenging Word of God – Andy Brown (repost)

I love it when the Bible catches you off guard. And especially so when it is a passage you think you know well. That very thing happened to me this morning. I was looking over the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5. I cannot say I was actually reading it, but was more just…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2020/04/17/the-challenging-word-of-god/

Plumb line

I really enjoyed this post which I read a couple of days ago. So I thought I would share it with you today for some Saturday reading

Have a blessed weekend!

If you search for the definition of a biblical plumb-line then the reference to the book of Amos will often come up. “Thus He showed me: Behold, the …

Plumb line

Hope Comes Looking (audio)

It was my pleasure to share in the teaching at our churches Lent meeting last week. we were considering the subject of hope, and looking at four encounters from the book of Luke-chapter 8.

I share below a recording of the message I gave, and hope it encourages you today.



Signs Above – #TestimonyTuesday

When I left university, I had little idea of what I wanted to do with my life – let alone what I thought God wanted me to do!

I applied for several jobs, and remember one vividly. It was an accounting role, and was based in Canary Wharf in London. At that time, it was a really up and coming area of the city, with a huge amount of development going on. It is now a very busy business district, among other things.

I was fortunate enough to be offered an interview for the role, and travelled to the area. There were some massive buildings there, and it was apparently a very expensive area. I recall buying a sandwich and having to take out a small loan to afford it!

I located the building and it was huge. As I went in through the main doors, I was confronted by a large reception area. Behind the main reception were the letters depicting the name of the firm in enormous characters. To me, it may as well have been as big as the Hollywood sign itself!

I may have been an adult by then, but I felt like a little boy gazing up at this gigantic sign. My heart sank and the phrase “out of my depth” sprang to mind! It never really occurred to me to turn and run, but I would not have been ungrateful if the ground had opened up at that point.

And that is when it happened…

It wasn’t an audible voice that I heard with my ears, but it was what I would later learn to be God’s voice whispering in my spirit. He said quite simply, “I am the God of this place as well.”

After that, the sign did not seem so big anymore.

I took a deep breath, uttered a little prayer and pressed on. I signed in, was escorted upstairs and gave it my best shot. As it happens, God had other plans for me and I did not get that job. Perhaps the reason I was offered an interview was simply to get me in front of that sign? I don’t know, but it taught me that God is ever-present. It showed me that even when I face things that are seemingly far bigger than I am, I go with a God who is bigger than everything.

What are you facing today or this week? If it seems too big for you, then remember you do not face it alone. The One who set the stars in place goes with you.

Jesus said, “Surely I am with you, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b). And He meant it.

Praise His holy Name!