Mark 11:12-19: Foliage or fruit.
“12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig-tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard him say it. 15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, ‘Is it not written: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations”? But you have made it “a den of robbers”. 18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. 19 When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.” NIV
I heard someone say that there is a kind of church growth which amounts to foliage and not fruit. This is true. It may be prolific growth at that. But what is there for ‘’hungry’’ (12) people to feed on? This was true of the Jewish people back then. From a distance, they looked impressive. It seemed they had much to offer. But inwardly there was a lack of spiritual reality.
This is what Jesus found in the temple of His day also (15-17). The leaves of religious profession were there in plentiful supply. There was a lot going on. It was a busy place. But there was a lot going on that was pushing out the main business of temple life. Where were the ‘’figs’’? Where was the prayerfulness the Lord desired to see? Where prayer is displaced from the heart of congregational life (17) you cannot have ‘fruit’. Fruitfulness is the crop of a life abiding in Jesus, the ‘Vine’ (John 15). Andrew Murray rightly said, ‘Do not confound work and fruit. There is much work for Christ that is not the fruit of the Heavenly Vine.’ Like the fig tree, the temple was an illustration of Israel at that time. Outwardly she looked splendid, but inwardly there was corruption. There was need for a clear out.
If the church is not filled with prayer, it will soon be filled with stuff Jesus will need to overturn and drive out. The ‘temple’ will again need to be cleansed. It appears it needed to be cleaned out more than once in Jesus’ day (see also John 2:12-17).
PRAYER: Lord have mercy on us. Forgive us our prayer-lessness. We know so much about prayer which does not get translated into prayer. Teach us to pray. Cause us to truly be your ‘’House of prayer for all nations’’.