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What is it about nice people that attract total idiots?Nice people are martyrs. Idiots are evangelists.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday message- you have to be there

One of the handful (or basketfull, or whichever) of Bible verses I always had a problem with is this story from Mark 11:

Mar 11:12 And on the morrow, they going out from Bethany, He hungered.
Mar 11:13 And seeing afar off a fig tree having leaves, He went toward it, if perhaps He would find anything on it. And coming on it, He found nothing except leaves, for it was not the season of figs.
Mar 11:14 And answering, Jesus said to it, Let no one eat fruit of you any more to the age. And His disciples heard.
Most pastors will tell you this is a parable of the Israel of Jesus' day, and I have no problem with that.  My problem lie with two things:
One- "for it was not the season of figs. "  Two, He then cursed it.

If figs aren't supposed to even be ON the poor thing, why get mad about being disappointed?  This seemed incredibly petty, and I had to get to the bottom of it.

And I found I was like many of the atheists/agnostics I have encountered.  "You can't tell me about the Bible, I probably know it better than you do," they have told me.  I tell them, "It's not to be known on a purely intellectual level.  You have to come to it with FAITH."  But faith vs false belief, head vs heart, even the difference between faith and religion, escapes them.  You can try all you want to explain it to them, but there is always the disconnect.  Because faith is near impossible from the OUTSIDE.  You have to be willing to come inside, to be immersed, TO OPEN YOURSELF BEYOND YOUR INTELLIGENCE TO EXPERIENTIAL KNOWLEDGE.  Or to put it a more common way, "Ya had ta be there."

What does this have to do with figs?

Well, I had to learn about them.  You see, in the regions of Galilee and Judea, often figs have fruit year round.  And when they don't they always bear fruit BEFORE the leaves come out.  By the time the leaves are big (remember, He saw "afar off"), the fruit is just about ready to be harvested.  So when Mark says, "It wasn't the time for figs", he meant it wasn't yet time to HARVEST them.  Thus, Jesus, seeing leaves, was rightly expecting at least some fruit- maybe small, maybe immature- to be on the tree.  If there was no fruit THEN, there was a good likelihood that it would NEVER bear fruit.

Given that, the rest of the parable becomes clear.

Mar 11:19 And when evening came, He went outside the city.
Mar 11:20 And passing along early, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots.
Mar 11:21 And remembering, Peter said to Him, Rabbi, behold, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.
But the part I caught hold of was the extra illumination given in Matthew 21:

Mat 21:20 And seeing, the disciples marveled, saying, How quickly the fig tree is dried up! In both cases, Jesus went on not to explain the parable, but to use it as a teaching moment about praying with FAITH.  If they had had enough faith at the time, they would have noticed that the incident came just after leaving the Temple.  Jesus would later tell them of the Temple:

Mar 13:1 And as He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, Teacher, Behold! What kind of stones and what kind of buildings!
Mar 13:2 And answering, Jesus said to him, Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon a stone which shall not be thrown down.

The fig tree, like Israel, had the show of being fruitful, but no fruit, and nowhere was it more true than at the Temple, and among the religious leaders.  And just like the fig that withered away overnight, the Temple would be destroyed within 40 years of the prophecy.

But here is MY lesson- I had to learn the NATURE OF THE FIG before it made sense.  Without that knowledge, I was seeing Jesus as petty, even cruel (mind you I knew I was wrong, but didn't understand the right of it)- a complaint I often hear from atheists.  Because they do not know the nature of faith.  I've always tried to look at the Bible with two rules:  The Kalko rule- read the preceding 10 verses and the following ten verses to understand the one you are on; and the Martin rule- everything is in there for a reason.  Now I have to add the Fig rule:  if it doesn't make sense, take the part you don't understand and learn what you don't know about it.

Or, Ya haveta BE there.


  1. I LOVE this. It was very enlightening. I have myself taken steps to delve deeper into a tenant of faith I have up til now taken at face value because it's what I was taught. We should always take the time to test what we are taught by those "in power" teach against the scripture, and ALWAYS dig deeper to find the why behind something that might seem off.

    1. I have always thought that the best preachers (and I have heard many of them) are the ones who say, "Don't believe me, look it up for yourself!" That's why they tell you, "Please turn to..."