Jesus often seems to come across fig trees with no fruit; on one occasion he cursed a tree and it withered within seconds. Figs were, and still are, common in Israel and apparently the edible fig was one of the first plants cultivated by humans back in 9000 BC. But if a tree does not bear fruit after a few years, then better to make the soil available to another plant. Also of note in this parable is that the barren fig tree was planted in a vineyard (better soil and sunny aspect) to give it more of a chance to flourish. Jesus is most likely referring to the Jews who were especially blessed by God in his ‘vineyard’; so even more of a disappointment that most did not respond to Christ and so were ready to be dug up and replaced by God’s Universal Church. But now Church members are the privileged ones and are expected to bear fruit in season.
If this seems a bit daunting there is encouragement in the other tree that Jesus refers to. The mustard tree grows from a tiny seed
into a decent tree
Although the trees produce delicious fruit, and great spaces of shade in deserts, people largely use the tree branches for toothbrushes. Apparently there is a chemical inside the tree that helps kill bacteria and plaque in the mouth. And of course the seed is used a core spice in many cultures.
Throughout the history of the Church this parable has inspired the faith of many who believe God has called them to start a Church or Christian Mission or School or Hospital … from scratch. And God has blessed these tiny faith-seeds, and His Kingdom has grown and flourished way beyond the original expectations of the seed planters. Many of us owe our faith and joy in Christ to those faith-seeds; we are the birds in the branches.
Do you have any faith-seeds you think you could plant, or work with others to plant? Don’t be daunted by the obstacles that you think will prevent the healthy growth of your faith-tree.
Dear Lord, please help me to bear fruit and not become a disappointment to You, like so many of the religious leaders that you confronted. And help me to be BOLD in sowing the small seeds of faith that will one day become fruitful trees and bring comfort and joy to others.