On the following day, when they came from Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 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. He said to it, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard it. (Mark 11.12-14)
Not everything is quite how we would like it. I’m not sure about these verses from St Mark’s Gospel, what do I make of them? If it wasn’t the season for figs then no wonder that Jesus didn’t find any on the tree. So why react so angrily? Is this really how Jesus would behave?
The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews is quite clear that Jesus did not sin.
We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4.15-16)
In one sense of course it is encouraging that Jesus might have sympathy with me when I come out with a petulant and inappropriate reaction to something. But that is not what this passage is about.
It would seem that rather than talking about figs Jesus was talking about other fruit, the fruit that was not being produced by the people of God. So just as he would go on to talk about the destruction of the temple in these days in the lead up to his passion, so he is talking here about the way in which the unfruitfulness of the people would be overthrown and a new fruitfulness in a new kingdom established – and established in him.
So perhaps we need to begin today by thinking about the extent to which our own life is fruitful. Are we the producers of good fruit? St Paul lists what the fruit of those who are alive in the spirit might be
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5.22-23)
It could be the basis for an audit of our life. Where am I being fruitful, where in my life is fruit not being produced?
For Jesus this new day was just beginning and he was making his way back into the city to face whatever was waiting for him there. For us this day is beginning as well. Some of us will already be at work, some enjoying a break from school or work, some at the kinds of activities that take up our time and attention every day. But whatever it is we are doing let us hope it is a day of fruitfulness.
Lord, I shall be very busy this day.
If I forget thee, do not thou forget me.
Sir Jacob Astley at the Battle of Edgehill