My car is amazing! Truth be told, it is too complicated for the likes of me. My car has a vast array of dashboard lights, indicators, and sounds. When one of these lights or sounds goes off, I can pay attention and take action, or, I can choose to ignore the warning, foolishly dismissing it, but often at my own peril (ever run out of gas?).
This section of Mark is a bright warning light to all who would pay attention to their own spiritual dashboards. The story of the fig tree, sandwiched with the Temple drama in the middle, is difficult, and rather confusing at first. My initial reaction is to instinctively recoil when I see Jesus cursing the fig tree. It doesn’t seem fair. It seems so out of character for Jesus, and it would appear that the fig tree is the innocent party. Upon closer examination, however, I discover in the book of Jeremiah that the fig tree is a symbol, not only for the Temple, but also for the people of Israel. The point of the passage is that God has a right to expect fruit from His people, and from their experience of worship. Instead, many of the religious people of Jesus’ day, and the Temple system itself, put roadblocks in the way of those who were seeking God. They trusted that their religious ritual and pedigree would keep them in good standing with God. They foolishly ignored the warning signs, but to their great peril. It is not sacrifice that God desires, but a broken and contrite heart. If I say that I love God, but do not love my neighbor, then my religion is worthless, and in fact it is an affront to God. The Temple, and its sacrificial system, would soon be completely demolished. The followers of Jesus, in the fellowship of His Church, would become the praying and forgiving community of faith…the new and living Temple of God.
What are the dashboard indicators in my own soul? What are the warning lights I should pay closer attention to? Am I, (are we), doing the things God rightly expects of us in order to keep our spiritual tanks full, or am I passing up on opportunities to stop and “fill up”? Am I doing too much, and need to say “no”? Am I (are we) bearing the kind of fruit that God rightly expects? If not, then why not? If yes, then give the Lord the praise and the glory He rightly deserves (for He is the vine…we are the branches. If we abide in Him, and He in us, we will bear much fruit. Apart from Him, we can do nothing.)
The Church exists to make new Christians, and to make Christians new. Are we becoming the community of faith (am I becoming the person of faith) that Jesus desires, where those seeking God can experience the praying and forgiving new life of Jesus?
Victor Sheldon is a Navy Chaplain currently serving with the 4th Marine Division in New Orleans. He longs to return home to Church of the Advent and to Washington, DC, but must suffice on creole gumbo crawfish etouffee, and coffee with chicory until the time when his wilderness wanderings are complete.