Scripture: Mark 11:12 On the following day, when (Jesus and his disciples) came from Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.
Observation: The tree in this story represents the old covenant between God and the people Israel based on the law of Moses. That first “tree” had not been fruitful for some time. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus would establish a new covenant that would bear fruit in a way the first covenant did not. Of course, the disciples didn’t understand this at the time of their hearing. They just knew Jesus didn’t like this particular tree for some reason.
Application: This past week, participating in conversations with some of my pastor peers from around the US, I am reminded that our culture is undergoing massive change. There are far more churches that are struggling than are thriving – and I wonder if this is a consequence of our lack of fruitfulness. Are we having the impact the church was designed to have in the first place? Have we clung too long to methods and practices that no long bear fruit? How might God give birth to something new – or at least something more fruitful? It’s already happening, I believe. And as the old expressions of church continue to decline, there is grief and pain.
Prayer: Lord, give us grace to embrace the process of pruning back the unfruitful branches so that new seasons of fruitfulness can emerge. Help those of us who lead churches confront unfruitful realities where they exist, yet never lose hope that you hold the future of your church in your hands. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.