“Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard him say it.” Matthew 21:18-19
“In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said, to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!” Mark 11:20-21
On Monday of Holy Week Jesus had selected one tree along the road from Bethany to Jerusalem and used it as a powerful example for his discipleship group. Normally a fig tree in full leaf would be loaded with fruit. This tree appeared to be fruitful, it appears, in great contrast to the other trees of its type. But upon closer examination, it was completely fruitless. Jesus cursed it and immediately it withered.
In this post, I don’t intend to wrestle with the scope of interpretation of this text but on the steps to greater faith.
#1 They heard him say it. They were listening to the words of Jesus, tracking his every word as serious followers. The beginning steps to grow your faith is to pay attention. The Great Commission provides the imperative of obedience. Disciples are those who obey whatever Jesus commands. It is a lifetime process. Disciple-makers are those who take seriously Christ’s commands, learn obedience themselves, and call others to this pattern.
May God help us to be attentive to the words spoken to us. We need to hear well. Throughout His ministry as Jesus often taught He punctuated His teaching with emphasis – “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” The Christian life is a life of hearing.
#2 Peter remembered. Did the others remember? Peter is singled out and elsewhere in the gospels his ‘memory’ did not serve him so effectively. Nor does ours on too many occasions. This time, however, twenty four hours after the prediction, Peter recalled the curse and drew the attention of Jesus to it. Why point it out? Was he surprised that what Jesus says will always come true? In just a few short days Jesus will remind the entire group, “I am THE WAY, THE TRUTH and THE LIFE…” He not only speaks truth, He is truth.
May God help us to remember the words spoken to us. We need to respond well. We have all kinds of ‘reminders’ which we use for our failing memories. What ‘reminders’ shall be put in place to remember the words of Jesus? Yesterday, Christ-followers from around the world remembered the death of Jesus by taking symbols of its occurrence. “Do this in remembrance of Me,” Jesus commanded. The Christian life is a life of remembering.
#3 Jesus answered, “Have faith in God.” The Son of God points to God with these four words. His entire life pointed to the Father, and in John 14 we are assured that the only way to God must be via Jesus Christ. Here were believers in God called to greater faith. Peter, and the entire group, were learning to have faith in Jesus. That’s what it means to be a Christian, doesn’t it? As the hymnwriter wrote, “Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him, How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er; Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus, O for grace trust Him more!”
May God help us to believe the words spoken to us. How many sermons and learning opportunities are missed, because we, like many old covenant believers, “have had the gospel preached to us…but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith?” The Christian life is a life of believing.
So to sum up, spiritual growth will occur when we are hearing, remembering and believing the truth that is abundantly available to us. I’m asking God for a renewed passion to do exactly this. Will you join me?