Monday, 17 February 2014 18:55:00
Mark 11:12-14 says Jesus was hungry and when he went up to the fig tree it had only leaves but no fruit because “the time of the figs was not yet” so Jesus cursed it. It didn’t seem reasonable to me that Jesus would do such a thing. It is true that Hosea 9:10 likens Israel’s forefathers to a “ripe fig tree” and I understand about the restoration of Israel, but I was sure there was something more to this though I didn’t know what. That is until I took a closer look. In fact, I had to go all the way back to Adam and Eve.
In Genesis 3:7 after Adam and Eve sinned they saw for the first time they were naked. The glory of God that clothed them had lifted and they could clearly see themselves as they were. Their remedy was to cover themselves with fig leaves.
Next we need to look at the Song of Solomon 2:8-13. It is a picture of the Shepherd (Jesus) coming for his beloved (His bride, the believers) and tells her to rise up and come away with Him. He describes the time of His coming. The “winter has past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth and ripens her green figs, and the vines are in blossom and give forth their fragrance.” Then He again tells His bride to arise and come away with Him.
If we go back to Mark 11 and put all these things together a picture emerges. First Jesus was hungry. That word “hungry” in Greek is peinao and means famished. He goes to the fig tree, and that word “fig” is suzao and means to live in union with, together. So what this is saying is that Jesus was hungry for his people, hungry to live in union with them, to have once again that precious and beautiful relationship He enjoyed with Adam and Eve, restored, but it wasn’t time. There was no fruit for Him to enjoy, only the same fig leaves that Adam and Eve used to cover up their sins and pretend their relationship with God was not broken. But like the Shepherd in the Song of Solomon, he so yearned for His beloved bride to come away with Him, to recognize the day of her visitation. But it was not to be. Not yet, anyway. First there had to be the battering of His body, the shedding of His blood, His death and resurrection, and then the fig tree could bring forth its fruit.
In Mark 11 when the disciples later saw the cursed tree all withered they point it out to Jesus, and Jesus returns with a curious statement. “Have faith in God.” Then He goes on to talk about moving mountains and praying and forgiveness. There is so much here. Too much to cover in one blog, but part of what Jesus was telling His disciples was that yes, the fig tree is dead, its leaves unsuitable to cover sin, but God had an answer. He had a remedy all worked out, the blood sacrifice of Jesus. But also He was saying that God always has an answer, a remedy. Even when our problems are as big as mountains, our faith in God’s ability can move them. And yes, in a broader sense, the nation of Israel would be restored to Him. They, too, as His beloved, would, as a nation, bring forth fruit for Him to enjoy. There would come a day when they would recognized their Good Shepherd, their Messiah.
I see in Mark 11:12-14 the broken heart of God as He hungers to love and fellowship with His people. That hunger is still here today. How He desires that none should perish! He is that beautiful Shepherd who says to each of us “come away with Me.” The fig tree bears fruit, the time in now.
Until next time,
Monday, 28 October 2013 13:48:00
Over two years ago I wrote this about sheep and Jesus’ role as our Shepherd:
“Sheep have to be among the silliest of God’s creatures. They simply cannot survive by themselves. If left on their own they would return to the same overgrazed and pollute pastures, unable to find new ones upon which to feed. They would become sickly without the saltlicks and other trace minerals the shepherd provides. They would drink from polluted holes unless taken to a source of water that is pure. Or they would drown if not kept away from swift running streams. Their eyes have to be constantly cleaned and medicated to prevent blindness from infections caused by flies. And they need sheltering during harsh inclement weather for they don’t know enough to shelter themselves. And when a sheep becomes “cast” or ends up on its back unable to scramble back on its feet, it would die unless the shepherd picked it up. In addition, sheep are utterly unable to protect themselves from predators and must rely solely on their shepherd for protection.
“It’s no accident that the Bible compares us to sheep for we are just as foolish and incapable of caring for ourselves. And it’s for this very reason we need The Good Shepherd. For it is the Shepherd that keeps us from pollution by providing His word for us to feed on. He is the living water that keeps us refreshed. He is the salve that keeps us from spiritual blindness. He is our provider, our shelter, our protector. His utter care and commitment is all encompassing. He is tender and loving, ever mindful of our weaknesses but never repulsed by them. He picks us up when we fall, and carries us when we are weak. He has laid down his life for us, the sheep. He has held nothing back.”
In light of this how can any of us survive without our Good Shepherd? And those of us who are not Jewish would be in serious trouble if what Jesus said in Matthew 15:24 was the end of it. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But it wasn’t the end of it. For in John 10:15-16 Jesus says He had “other sheep beside these (the Jews) that are not of this fold. I must bring and impel those (the Gentiles) also; and they will listen to My voice and heed My call, and so there will be (they will become) one flock under one Shepherd.” Here Jesus is foretelling that the New Covenant would extend to Jew and Gentile alike.
How gracious of God to go outside His covenant people, the Jews, and extend His hand of grace to us Gentiles, to us who previously had no claim on Him. The truth is that God desires that none should perish and has extended to “whosoever will” the invitation to enter His sheepfold. But it’s up to us. We must decide whether or not to enter or remain outside, outside His grace, outside His forgiveness and redemption, outside eternity in heaven. He will never violate our free will and force us into the fold. But Jesus stands ever patient, ever kind, ever hopeful that we will heed His call.
It’s amazing that many church goers have never heeded it. They come to church because that’s what their parents did or because it seems like the “right thing” to do. Our pews are full of them. But unless one enters the sheepfold through Jesus alone—not good works, not through tradition—only Jesus, they will not be under the protection of the Shepherd or part of the flock, but will be outside the fold susceptible to all the dangers that are only increasing.
May all those who know about the Shepherd come to know Him. He has been waiting for you all your life.
Until next time,
Monday, 07 October 2013 17:04:00
Last week I talked about how the pattern of salvation was set in the story of the 100 sheep, the one that was lost and the 99 left; how Jesus, Creator of those sheep, left His glory for the purpose of restoring the lost, which came at great cost to Himself (Matthew 18:12-14).
This week, looking at John 10:1-15 we see the theme of the Shepherd (Jesus) and the sheep (lost mankind) continues. In it Jesus makes several profound and radical statements. He tells us that only the Shepherd can enter the door of the sheepfold, that he “who does not enter by the door . . . but climbs up some other way is a thief and robber.” And the Shepherd knows his sheep, he calls them by name and leads them, and they recognize his voice and follow him. Then Jesus tells us that He Himself is not only the Door to the sheepfold (through His death and resurrection) but the Good Shepherd of the sheep. And that the Good Shepherd lays down His life for his sheep. It’s both clear and beautiful.
But who is the thief, the robber? The one who tries to sneak into the sheepfold? Who comes “to steal, and kill and destroy?” It is, of course, Satan. First He tries to keep the sheep from coming into the fold. When that fails, he will try to invade the fold, to separate it, disrupt it, and create havoc. How many split churches can attest to that? And Satan will do both things through lies and deception. He will first tell us we are gods, that we don’t need a Savior, that we can just “do our own thing,” be the “captain of our ship.” He will dangle all the allurements the world has to offer: money, fame, pleasure. And yes, the Bible tells us there is pleasure in sin for a season. But when that pleasure fades, when that money no longer satisfies and leaves us empty, when we realize that fame is short lived and empty, too, perhaps then we are finally ready to allow the Good Shepherd to do what He longs to do: save us from ourselves and our sins, then lead us onto a better path. But even those in His sheepfold must constantly listen for His voice because if they don’t they could fall prey to the counterfeit shepherd who is ever trying to destroy them.
I once did a blog on how silly and foolish sheep were. They would wander away from the flock and die, or drown in a fast moving stream if it were not for the shepherd. They are also disease prone, easy prey for wild beasts, and utterly unable to protect themselves. I think that’s a pretty good description of what we’re like. And maybe remembering that will make us tender hearted toward those who are still lost. After all, they’re only sheep, too, just ones without a shepherd.
But here’s the best part, while Satan comes to “steal, kill and destroy,” Jesus said He came so that His sheep “may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance, to the full” (John 10:10 Amplified). Pray that all those you know and love will come to know the Good Shepherd and enter into this abundant life.
Until next time,