Monday, January 10, 2011

Friends and Figs

First of all, thanks to you, dear readers, for following me over to the new blog. I have read - and have been thrilled by - your comments. I look forward to studying the Bible together. I hope we can train (or retrain) ourselves to think about heavenly things in every object we see, in every person or situation we encounter. Today, let's consider an object: the fig. But I've got to get you up to speed in a roundabout way...let's see...

Most usually, one's friends are all around the same age. It's easy that go to Bible class together - or you are young marrieds or young singles together - or you have kids who go to school together. Many friendships fall into that easy pattern. It makes sense. And for the healthy friendships, they are, indeed, continual blessings. I have been also blessed, though, to become friends with a group of ladies who are both older and younger than me. Did I say that right? You can't be "both older and younger than me." It's a paradox...I hope you can figure it out. ;)

These ladies come together for a common interest. Actually, two common interests: tea parties and Christian education. Here's how it fits together. And it's almost time for our committee to start meeting again! I'm getting excited.

But this post is not about a tea party - it's about a fig tree. Albeit a fig tree belonging to one of the ladies on the tea party committee. See how it all comes full circle?

Ms. Laurel has been on the tea party committee for many years and I have so enjoyed getting to know her a bit better in that setting. She's a former FHU president's wife who still stays very active in university life, along with being active in our congregation and in the community. Right now, she and her husband are on a mission trip to India. You might want to check out her blog about this very topic. It continues to be a very interesting read...yes, many things about Indian culture seem primitive but they have Wi-Fi, so she's able to post while on the trip! Crazy.

Last year after the BIG tea party, our committee decided to visit a tea room ourselves and do a little relaxing and celebrating. Charlene's Colony of Shoppes (with the Just Divine Tea Room) was a ways away, so we embarked on a field trip. You can see the evidence here. There were six of us who went - Debbie, Margaret, Sasha, Laurel, Rhonda, and me - and we had a fantastic time talking on the way there and on the way back and all the time in between. I do so love being around these ladies!

Well, sometime during all this conversation, the topic turned to figs. I cannot explain how this happened. But several of the ladies raved about fresh figs and I mentioned that I had never tasted one. Since I am a regular food blog reader, I already had a suspicion that I had long been missing something! I had never seen them sold in a grocery store around these parts, so I assumed that they just weren't grown around here. Maybe they're too delicate to ship or something? Anyway, I found out that Ms. Laurel and her husband have a fig tree in their yard, so this was a very exciting discovery. Especially when she told me that she would make sure I had some figs when their tree produced later. Yes, please!

She was true to her word, hand-delivering a bowl of fresh figs to our house sometime later. I was charmed by her thoughtfulness and giddy when she suggested that I could come pick more myself. Giddy because those fresh figs are marvelous! Oh! I was astounded at the flavor and loved the texture, too. Jeremy enjoyed them also, yet noted that they "tasted nothing like Fig Newtons." ;)

Besides the delicious flavor, we were also very intrigued that we were eating something that dated back to Biblical times. Really, to the very beginning of the world. Soak that in. There was at least one fig tree that God planted in the Garden of Eden. The GARDEN of EDEN. Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together to make clothes when they became aware of their nakedness. (Genesis 3:7) And now I know exactly what fig leaves look like - they're pretty huge - larger than many other leaves, so it makes perfect sense that they would have been chosen for coverings. (So sorry I don't have any pictures, and I wouldn't really recommend a "fig leaf" search on Google because there are some pictures with people showing, um, lots of skin. Be very warned.) There are numerous other mentions of figs or fig trees in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Speaking of the New Testament, Jesus and his disciples obviously ate from fig trees while on their journeys. This passage in particular is very interesting to me.

"On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, 'May no one ever eat fruit from you again.' And his disciples heard it." (Mark 11:12-14, English Standard Version)

Jeremy and I talked about this seeming harsh - the apostle Mark had even noted that "it was not the season for figs." But it's more likely that we don't know the whole story. Let's keep going. Immediately after this is the section in my Bible called "Jesus Cleanses the Temple."

"And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, 'Is it not written, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations"? But you have made it a den of robbers.' And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city.

As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, 'Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.' (Mark 11:15-21)

Is it just a coincidence that the verses about Jesus cleansing the temple are sandwiched between the verses about the withered fig tree? A side note: too many times we stop reading a passage and think, "I don't get this. This doesn't make sense." And we close the Bible and walk away, wondering. I'm tired of doing that. I am going to start trying to make sense of seemingly confusing scriptures. We didn't even have to look much further for a possible explanation for the harsh withering of the fig tree.

Don't you think that the Son of God could have known, even before walking up to the tree, that there wouldn't be any figs? Could it be that the fig tree event was foreshadowing for his "withering" of those disgracing the temple? It seems he was making a statement about much more than just figs. If we "misuse the temple," he won't stand for that.

Jesus was a master teacher and prescribed to the theory of "teachable moments" long before that phrase was coined. So there's more teaching he does after they pass by the tree a second time.

"And Jesus answered them, 'Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, "Be taken up and thrown into the sea," and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses." (Mark 11:22-25, ESV)

A tutorial on prayer. Ask with belief and without doubting. Forgive those who need forgiving, so that you also can be forgiven.

So simple.

So difficult.

All from considering a fig tree.


Shirley said...

Wonderful lesson!

pharmguy said...

It was strange to me that Jesus rebuked the tree because it was not in season. I wonder why he didn't just ask the tree for fruit. Psalm 1:3 says, (talking about a righteous man) "He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers." This leads me to another questoin...when is a righteous man's season?

I do think that you are right in that Jesus was using teachable moments. I wonder if he was using the fig tree as an example that when you pray believe with all your heart so that you may receive what you have asked for (as long as you don't ask amiss). The disciples heard Jesus rebuke the tree and then they saw how He affected it by his faith.

Sanks for making my brain think. I love you.

Kimberly Washer said...

First of all, I'm super excited for this new blog!!! It is going to be awesome!! Secondly, I love that your little husband reads and comments!!

vickiml said...

Having seen a fig leaf, which grow around here quite easily, you may have noted that those things have a layer of itchy "fuzz" on them. They would not have made nice clothing! God was gracious to provide animal skins instead!

I have heard it taught, but don't know that it is true, that the fig tree produces fruit before it produces the leaves.

(There was a fig tree in the yard of one house I bought, but a previous man who must have received a chainsaw for Christmas has only left a single limb on the tree. That single limb produced more than one could imagine and I suspect the man went crazy after picking up dropped figs.)

One would have to consider that God does not tolerate limbs that do not produce fruit. He prunes them off so that His creation, whether fig, grape, or church becomes more fruitful. An entire tree not performing must have seemed ludicrous.

Thank you for your wonderful thoughts on figs. The picture is beautiful!

Kristen said...

Thanks for your thoughts on this, everyone! There are so many interesting insights...I'm still ruminating on it all. There may have to be a Part II. =)

Dana said...

What makes this lesson so wonderful is that it is completely obvious that it comes from you! I so enjoy your writing style and I have to tell you that you make me hungry for all the whatever's in your blogs. I have always enjoyed parables, teachable moments and analogies; especially analogies since they seem to help the men in our lives understand us better...maybe that is because they just need a good story to pay attention. Keep up the good work! Always enjoyable! I think you're on the right track concerning this difficult to understand passage.