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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Daily Devotion for March 3, 2014

The Accursed Fig Tree (Le figuier maudit) by James Tissot, ca. 1886.



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lessons and scripture

Lord's Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.


To Remember God During the Day

Lord God, the heavens are telling of your glory and the wonders of your love, the sun by day, and the moon and stars by night. Yet, as clouds will cover your sky in gloom, as the ceilings of men's buildings hide the sky from my sight, so the cares of this existence block your majesty from my mind.

I look with hope to the day when my knowledge of your glory will never be hidden by the concerns of the world, and I may know you every moment of time, forever; but until then, forgive me for all the time I spend with my face bent to the things of earth, your Spirit ignored and forgotten; for you are always there, willing to show yourself to me and guide me and comfort me, if I only lift up my head and see the sky above.



[God is always there, waiting for our attention.]

Prayer to Gain and Share Wisdom

Lord, there is so much that I don't know, and I ask you to inspire me with a thirst for knowledge. I pray, too, for wisdom and understanding that I may use my knowledge well. I give thanks for many people I have never met whose knowledge and understanding have been passed on to me. I ask that I may benefit from their work and experience and may contribute, in turn, to the well-being of others.



Into your hands, O Lord, Jesus Christ, my God, I commend my spirit. Bless me and all those who pray in faith of You this day; save us and grant unto us everlasting life.


(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.

Father Tuck’s Parables | Jesus and the Barren Fig Tree | Matthew 21
Father Tuck’s Parables were published, ironically, by Raphael Tuck & Sons, Orthodox Prussian Jews who immigrated to London in 1865. Notice the foxgloves, so typical of an English garden.

Proverbs 8:18-20 (NKJV)

Riches and honor are with me,
Enduring riches and righteousness.
My fruit is better than gold, yes, than fine gold,
And my revenue than choice silver.

I traverse the way of righteousness,
In the midst of the paths of justice.

Blue Latin Cross

Matthew 21:18-22 (ESV)

Jesus Curses the Fig Tree

In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.

When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

Notes on the Scripture

The poor fig tree has the bad luck to become a metaphor. Instead of telling a parable, Jesus acts one out; he gives the apostles a dramatic rendition. The fig tree clearly represents Israel, in the broad sense of the Hebrew nation. The figs are righteousness. This is hardly a new metaphor, as we see the fruit of a tree representing goodness and righteousness throughout the Bible. In Matthew 7, we had a powerful example:

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

(Matthew 7:16-20)(KJV)

And again, in John 15:1-8: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

The timing of this demonstration and its concreteness inform us that Jesus seeks to apply the general principle of Matthew 7 to the specific situation: His imminent arrest and execution. He is, bluntly, cursing Israel and Judaism. It is not retribution for the act they are about to commit; Jesus is not seeking revenge for his death, for his death is the will of God, a sacrifice for the salvation of the Jews and all nations. Rather, the day of the old covenant is over.

Judaism, as a religion and as a nation, is about to become a discarded husk, a skin that has been shed. The caterpillar or pupa will become a butterfly, and Israel will become no more than the lifeless reminder of a previous age. From another perspective, it is not actually Christ's crucifixion that will destroy Israel, but his resurrection. God has provided a fruitful road to righteousness and salvation.

There is also a sense that the old covenant is dying because it is not producing fruit. The Jewish religious leaders are utterly corrupt, and their is no righteousness in them or their religion. Like any tree that is not producing fruit, it must be “hewn down, and cast into the fire.”

Or to say it yet another way — and probably the most correct theological way, for it is a central point of Paul's Epistle to the Romans — the purpose of Mosaic Law was to give us a yardstick by which we could measure our conduct and see that we were sinful. And the purpose of Judaism was to show that we could not attain righteousness before God by our actions. Now, having served its purpose, God will abandon the old covenant.

endless knot

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1 John 2:4-5 (ESV): Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him.

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