Does your faith connect to life? Does the Spirit produce the fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) that is evidence of a living relationship with the Lord in you?
Jesus began what we call “Holy Week” with the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. He rode the donkey through the gate receiving the welcome of people’s cheers and the praise, “Hosanna!” But, the days that followed would be full of confrontation and escalating conflict with religious leaders of the city.
Matthew records one of the things that Jesus did on Monday morning, an act that seems so out of character for Him. “In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs on it, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up.” (Matthew 21:18-19, NLT) What? Why? Was He having a bad day? While it may seem so to us at first reading the rest of the chapter gives a context to that moment.
It was a living parable, a teaching moment that remained unforgotten in the minds of His disciples. He had taught, loved, and done miracles that pointed to the fact that He was the long awaited Messiah. He longed for the people to receive Him, to know the joy of entering into the New Kingdom He brought, to experience the gift of a new relationship with their Father. But, instead, they mostly argued, rejected, and challenged. Like the fruitless fig tree, their lives had no evidence of the Spirit of God and they were ‘dead to God’ because of their rejection. Jesus knew the tragedy of their rejection. Like the withered fig tree, they were facing destruction.
The cursed fig tree set the stage for a parable Jesus told to the religious authorities who questioned Him about His own authority. When they heard the story, they knew exactly what He was saying. It was an infuriating challenge, a direct indictment of their disobedience to the God they professed to serve.
“But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go. Which of the two was obeying his father?” They replied, “The first, of course.” Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I assure you, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. For John the Baptist came and showed you the way to life, and you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to turn from your sins and believe him.” (Matthew 21:28-32, NLT)
His words were shocking and offensive. Those Pharisees who took pride in their external morality, in their scrupulous observation of the ritual Law, were scandalized by Jesus’ suggestion that the outcasts, the crooks, and the women who sold their bodies could be eligible to ‘enter the Kingdom!’ This Man had to go! And so the decisions to eliminate Him began to be made.
We would do well to think about our lives this Holy Week.
Are we content to sing songs of praise, to give mental assent to the Creed, to say a few prayers as we close the day while largely carrying on life without any real Love or obedience? Do we think that our social respectability gives us a place at God’s Table?
I want to leave these passages with you for your reflection today. I pray that we will let the Holy Spirit make them truth to live by.
“Consequently, it is clear that no one can ever be right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” (Galatians 3:11, NLT)
“What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.” (Hebrews 11:1, NLT) “So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6, NLT)
When the Lord looks at your life does He find fruit or nothing but leaves?
(Lauren Daigle sings this great old song)
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth
Will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace
O soul are you weary and troubled
No light in the darkness you see
There’s light for a look at the Savior
And life more abundant and free
Through death into life everlasting
He passed and we follow Him there
Over us sin no more hath dominion
For more than conquerors we are
His Word shall not fail you He promised
Believe Him and all will be well
Then go to a world that is dying
His perfect salvation to tell
Helen H. Lemmel © Words: Public Domain