fig pt. 2

Suggested Reading : Mark 11:12-19

Tensions are extremely high between Jesus and the religious leaders. During the feast of dedication in Jerusalem, months before the Passover, we find a pointed question from the Jews, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24). To which Jesus answers, “I told you and you did not believe; because you are not of my sheep… the works I do in my Father’s name testify about me...”

This wasn’t the first, nor would it be the last deity claim of Jesus. And when He said it, the people pick up stones to kill Him. Had Jesus not been the Son of God, this would have been the right response. It was the law. But He actually was the Son of God, and that’s His defense as they stand clutching stones before Him (v. 37, 38). He escapes (somehow) and travels over 100 miles from Jerusalem to Nazareth beyond the Jordan. And here He stays doing ministry while the plots to kill Him continue. Even the disciples knew of these plans, which is why they resign themselves to death (11:16) when Jesus says they will return to Judea.

What prompted His return?

Lazarus died. And his miraculous resurrection, perhaps more than any other miracle, initiates the final push to kill Jesus. And not just Him, but Lazarus too (John 12:10,11), “for on account of him many were believing in Jesus.” So,“from that day on, they planned together to kill Him” (11:53), because, “if we let Him go on like this [performing many signs] everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will take away our Temple and our Nation (11:48).” Jesus leaves and goes to a region near the wilderness until the ‘appointed” time.

That ‘appointed time,’ starts with what the Church now calls, Holy Week, the culmination of Lent. After raising Lazarus from the dead, some believe but some notify the religious leaders. In response, Jesus withdraws from the public and stays 14 miles outside Jerusalem in a place called Ephraim while the rest of the Jews begin their yearly pilgrimage to the Temple for the Passover. During the Passover, sacrifices would be made to cleanse, purify, and forgive sin. And in the sacrificial system, this was the one and only way to be reconciled to God. Every Jew, no matter where they lived, would return. The city would swell 4 to 6 times it’s usual population, and the people would stay in tents spreading to all the surrounding cities so that they might come, daily, to the Temple.

All of them wanted to see Jesus. They had heard the story of Lazarus and were wondering what that kind of power would mean for the nation. They hoped it would mean liberation from Rome, and that’s just what the religious leaders meant to prevent. So they issue orders that anyone knowing where Jesus was should report it to them that they might seize Him. This only heightened the expectation of the people from the greatest to the least. Even a blind beggar on the Jericho road, upon hearing Jesus is near calls out, “Son of David, have mercy on me (Lk. 18:38). Do you see that? Not only does this title honor Jesus as a Jew of Jews, but it reinforces His legitimate lineage through King David.

Not only does Jesus have mercy, He heals the beggar, Bartimas, so he might see. And Jesus longed to do the same with all of Israel so they might recognize their time of visitation. Prophets foretold what began to unfold. Jesus arrives in Bethany at the home of Lazarus, 2 miles outside Jerusalem and sends two disciples ahead to bring back a colt for Him to ride (Zech. 9:9). And the people, hearing Jesus is coming, go to meet Him, spontaneously, celebrating Him as they would a victorious King overtaking a conquered city. And they continue even as He enters the Temple.

The religious rulers, there, are outraged and demand Jesus stop the people. But He refuses, saying creation itself would cry out if the people were forced to stop. And as He looks out over the people He came to save, He weeps. He knows the King they want is not the King He is. He is different. He is better. He is more.

But being that it is late, He returns to Bethany for the night (Mk. 11:11). And the next morning, we find the curious story of the fig tree, our focus for today. Jesus; hungry, walks up to the not-in-season fig tree and finding it barren curses it. It dies. And, this is a pretty intense Jesus. But this act is more than meets the eye. Figs, the fruit of the Fig tree, were a biblical/historical symbol of wealth, provision, abundance, safety, security, even prosperity for Israel.

As early as 12 years old, we see Jesus course-correcting these wayward people through the scriptures that point only to Him. He didn’t “abolish the old systems.” He came to fulfill. He came to reconcile us back to God. His life showed us exactly what Life looks like when that reconciliation occurs — it’s the life we were created to know in the garden before sin. And the rescue plan included a people, the Jews; blessed to be a blessing so the whole world might be saved.

In spite of the three years of signs and miracles, like the blind man or Lazarus’ resurrection, ultimately, the Jews reject their Messiah. And Jesus knew it long before the shouts of “crucify” were ever on their lips. He knew it when they celebrated Him as King, and He knew it months before when they tried to stone Him. Just as the fig tree failed to bear fruit, so did Israel. Their purpose was to know God and make Him known in the whole earth; only when He actually came as promised, they were too blind to see it.

Before we spend too much time judging them, the better path would be to recognize our own human tendency to overlook the ways God is steadily revealing Himself. That’s what you see in the story of Jesus even on the last days before the cross. Knowing what’s at stake, Jesus still raises Lazarus from the dead. Knowing the orders for His arrest are commonly known, he heals a vulnerable beggar on the way into the city. What kind of man is this? What kind of King?

Today, read through the stories of Jesus. Let the Holy Spirit open your eyes to see Him as He really is. Remember and See what you may have been blind to before.

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celebrate.

Through my Lenten journey, several friends have been writing daily devos for the community. Today’s is written by Matt Reynolds. Enjoy.

SCRIPTURE READING: Luke 24, Hebrews 10
He is risen! And with Him, we too are raised to life.

Join us at Grace-Midtown 10:30AM, 6:00PM, 8:00PM Baptisms at 7:30PM

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Lent Day 40 — Matt Reynolds
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It’s Easter y’all, and that is good news for EVERYONE.

Let me tell you why…

”When Jesus walked out of the tomb the word IMPOSSIBLE was eliminated from our vocabulary. “ – Mark Batterson

I don’t know about you, but I’m in the game to live a life filled with nothing short of the impossible. I’ve seen and experienced too much of God and His Kingdom to be satisfied with anything ordinary. We are familiar with what is possible with man, but have we become accustomed to what is possible only with God? (Luke 1:37).

As a staff, we have been specifically praying for a breakthrough in miracles, with an emphasis on healing since January. I am really hoping that miracles are springing up and breaking out all over our community. Maybe some are in the works and today is the day God is really going to “show up”. I am leveraging my faith for Today being the day we start to see miracles become commonplace; and more, that Today is the day miracles begin being multiplied. Hundreds need Jesus in our city; thousands really, and Hebrews 2:3-4 says that we can expect miracles for those who need the message of Jesus.

“This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”

Have you ever seen a miracle?

When is the last time you were a part of a sign, a wonder, or a “various!?” kind of miracle from God? This text says that they should be more normal than we have made them out to be.

When is the last time you told someone about Jesus?

I don’t mean you talked about the topic of religion, or church, or your “beliefs,” but when is the last time you told someone about the Jesus who still Lives, about the Jesus who is still making things happen in our lives on earth??

Maybe there is a connection between our speaking of Him and our experience of His power. We have plenty of talk, but the Kingdom is a matter of power, not talk. (1 Corth. 4:20). God promised to confirm His message with the miraculous, it’s really that simple.

So, how do we get to the point where our everyday life is actually supernaturally natural? That is the question I am emerging from Lent asking myself. How would you answer that?

Besides being willing to talk about Jesus a lot…I think it has much to do with our willingness to live in a posture of risk + faith. Risking it big time and seeing the Resurrected One show up. Leveraging our faith, even after we leverage it and don’t see God do a miracle. Our faith is suppose to move mountains, but if we don’t ever exercise it it’s not going to move anything or anyone…

If you don’t have any miracle stories, this Easter, you have the opportunity to go “make one.” They have always happened through ordinary people doing the extraordinary for God, and this has not changed one bit– we have! There are signs, wonders, and various kinds of miracles God can do through you, but He actually chooses not to do them without you (Mark 6:5). I actually believe God has loads more miracles He wants to do, that are very creative in nature I might add, if we are up for His adventurous leading.

Lets choose to live in a posture of risk + faith, talking about the real Jesus often, and seeing His miracles confirm His message. stories. If they aren’t happening daily, I’m sure we are not living the supernaturally natural lifestyle of the Resurrection.

-Matt

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neighbors.

I moved in September and have been wanting to get to know my neighbors. Amidst the hustle and bustle of life, I have a desire to return to the small town days where borrowing a cup of sugar is common place.

Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling and have seen much of the world. In fact, almost any trip is appealing to me, but I see the value (now) of “planting” myself in a neighborhood where friends end the work day with long, leisurely dinners and conversations that last late into the night.

Did you know parents actually walk their kids to school — still? It happens in Candler Park. I don’t have kids, but there’s something sweet about what I saw one morning on my way to breakfast.

My life has been too broad, I think. I meet tons of people and run from one thing to the next. That’s why walking kids to school strikes a chord with me. I can imagine feeling connected to a neighborhood, a community, that it’s somehow “my” neighborhood–that I know the people. I know that sounds a  little Andy Griffith, but maybe you understand what I mean.

This Christmas, I decided to “get-to-know” the neighbors by creating a little holiday gift for the houses around mine. With the Christmas monsoon this week, I haven’t executed the plan quite yet, but I will before Sunday.

Me and some of my girlfriends got together and made Christmas Bark — a concoction of white chocolate with red and green peppermint; broken into bite size shards that are sure to communicate Merry Christmas. And thanks to Target’s modern gift tags (see pic) I wrote holiday notes and tied them to each bag.

I don’t know if this simple little gift will impact anyone but me, but I’m glad to have taken one small step to bridging the gap. What about you? What have you done to make your global world a neighborhood?

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collages.

Creatively speaking, I’m into collages these days– collages and thin fonts. There’s something interesting to me about a creative mess, finding beauty in that mess (which is why my car looks the way it does).

Work-wise, I needed to brand our series, Rediscovering the Church. A collage afforded the necessary freedom to use words, phrases, and ideas to communicate the message. For inspiration, here’s some stolen google images.

Turns out, a collage is a bit trickier than I thought. Here’s my first attempt:

        

To see the whole series art, click here. Creating a focal point in the mess is the key to beauty, and some designs I love while others missed the mark. Either way, I still love the concept. Hope you enjoy.

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the fig.

For the last few years, I’ve intentionally tried to experience Holy Week by reading from the bible exactly what it says Jesus was doing each day. Yesterday, you know, was Palm Sunday and the “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem. All Jews, made the yearly pilgrimage back to the Temple there to make sacrifices and receive forgiveness from their sins (yep).

On Jesus’ way to the temple Monday morning, we find a curious story of the Fig tree. Most likely, you’ve heard it before. Jesus; hungry, walks up to the not-in-season fig tree and finding it barren curses it. It dies.

Now, this is a pretty intense Jesus. We all love the let-the-little-children-come-to-me Jesus, but I think this story is more than meets the eye with implications reaching as far as you and I. [that rhymed]

Figs are the fruit of the Fig tree. The purpose of the fig tree– any tree– is to bear fruit. What’s more, the fig is a biblical/historical symbol of wealth, provision, abundance, safety, security, even prosperity for Israel; the chosen people of God. At least, that’s what I found in my research.

You see where this is going, right?

Jesus came to reconcile us back to God. His life showed us exactly what Life looks like when that reconciliation occurs — it’s the life we were created to know in the garden before sin. And the rescue plan included a people, the Jews; blessed to be a blessing so the whole world might be saved.

As early as 12 years old, we see Him course-correcting these wayward people through the scriptures that point only to Him. He didn’t picket, set up a new denomination, or “abolish the old systems.” He came to fulfill.

There are simply too many references to list here either showing Jesus teaching in the synagogues of the towns he visited or back in Jerusalem participating the religious festival and feasts. Even after His resurrection, the disciples and other followers of Jesus “continued going to the Temple daily” as they had done with Jesus.

In spite of the three years of miracles and teaching throughout Israel, ultimately, the Jews rejected their Messiah, and Jesus knew it before the shouts of “crucify” were ever on their lips. Just as the fig tree failed to bear fruit, so did Israel. Their purpose was to know God and make Him known in the whole earth, only when He actually came as He promised they were too busy still waiting.

It could have been so different. Even though that fig tree was “not-in-season” the One who was hungry wouldn’t ask for fruit if He weren’t ready to create it.

But we get to write another story. The Church is the new Israel, and Jesus is the vine who lays down his life so we might bear the fruit of Life, abundantly. All we have to do is “abide” in Him (Jn. 15)and He’ll bear the fruits of His spirit in our lives.

If you want to read through Holy Week in the scriptures, click here.

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a bowl of soup.

I stole these ideas from Andy Stanley. At least, the start of them. Nothing you read here originated with me, but it is a result of Andy’s Opening Session at Catalyst. And since I’m still reflecting on it after 6 months, it’s making the blog.

“As the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter. He was an outdoorsman, but Jacob had a quiet temperament, preferring to stay at home. Isaac loved Esau because he enjoyed eating the wild game Esau brought home, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

One day when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau arrived home from the wilderness exhausted and hungry. Esau said to Jacob, ‘I’m starved! Give me some of that red stew!’

‘All right,’ Jacob replied, ‘but trade me your rights as the firstborn son.’

‘Look, I’m dying of starvation!’ said Esau. ‘What good is my birthright to me now?'”

Gen. 25:27-34

From the moment Esau was born, he was being groomed (like a Prince) to succeed in the role intended for him. As the firstborn son, he would receive double the inheritance and assume the leadership of the family, especially the spiritual leadership, when his Father died.

Something this important, this vital to their family’s survival would have been planned for, looked forward to, even discussed among the family openly and often. So openly, that both Rebekah and Jacob planned and schemed until the day came where Esau’s longing outweighed his wisdom.

Everything would change based on one action.

Go the right way, the way he had been prepared for since birth, and the God of Abraham, Isaac and …Esau… would build a nation out of them. He would be their God and they would be His people. He would prosper them. These were the promises of God to Esau.

But Esau was hungry, now.

His desire was real. His desire was unmet. And faced with this need, he looked to what he could do now.

The implications are huge. We assume a fork in the road will be obvious. That when we’re confronted with a choice that could change our lives, we’ll see it long before we have to make it. If we ever had to choose between our destiny and our desire, we’d never settle for a bowl of soup.

To Esau though, his desire felt like, maybe even was, life or death. He felt he had to act. Esau had to do something because the God who promised to build a nation out of him was about to let him die.

The desire isn’t the problem. Esau was hungry and he needed to eat.

The problem is this, Esau forgot. He forgot who he was. He forgot what God had promised him. He never considered, it would seem, that if God was true to His word and He truly cared about Esau that God had to provide a way to meet this need.

Esau’s desire overcame his destiny and his confidence in God. In the midst of need, God was late, not paying attention, or worse, not there. So, Esau traded the promises of God to meet his need.

Where are we tempted to do the same? Are you drooling over a bowl of soup when you can know the God who provides a feast?

Remember who you are. Remember the promises God has made to you. He will be your God and you will be His child. He will prosper you.

If you have a story of Him doing just that, please share it in the comments.

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embrace the season.

I’m not a songwriter.

At least, I don’t think I am. If I could write a song, I would like to have written this one. It’s based on Jeremiah 29, one of my favorites. For me, this passage is all about truly embracing every season, especially the season you’re in. That’s why I find it funny that verse 11 has become the graduation verse, captioned under cap n’ gown photos that “look to the future.”

Even more, though, I hope this passage can encourage us to BE. To “build homes, plant gardens” — LIVE more fully NOW because verse 11 is true.

No matter what the circumstance, He reigns.

For me and many in my community, the last few months have been some deep waters. Babies are born, dear ones are falling in love and committing to marriage, but we’ve also said good-bye to precious friends we won’t see again until eternity. In spite of the range of emotions, I am coming to believe now more than ever that in death, in disappointment, in delay, in delight, He still reigns with goodness. That’s why I love this song.

Thank you, Aaron Keyes, for writing it.

Sovereign Over Us
Aaron Keyes, Jack Mooring, Bryan Brown

Your plans are still to prosper, You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
Faithful forever, Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us

There is strength within the sorrow
There is beauty in our tears
You meet us in our mourning
With a love that casts out fear

You are working in our waiting
Sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding
You’re teaching us to trust

Your plans are still to prosper, You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
Faithful forever, Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us

You are wisdom unimagined
Who could understand your ways
Reigning high above the heavens
Reaching down in endless grace

You’re the Lifter of the lowly
Compassionate and kind
You surround and You uphold me
Your promises are my delight

Even what the enemy means for evil
You turn it for our good
You turn it for our good and for your glory
Even in the valley you are faithful
You’re working for our good
You’re working for our good and for your glory

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