Tender and Green
This winter Mary thought one of our live oak trees in our front yard had died. Its leaves had fallen, something live oaks don’t usually do in the winter. “Dave, check out our tree. I’m afraid we’ve lost it.” I took my knife, reached out for one of the branches, and shaved a little of the bark back. At first I thought maybe Mary was right, but then I shaved up farther on the branch. Underneath it was still green. It was alive. And in the spring new tender shoots shot out from those branches, new leaves appeared, and now even in the devastating Texas heat, both our live oaks are well and strong.
Jesus points us not to a live oak, but to a fig tree. After all, the last time he pointed us to a fig tree in the narrative, it shriveled up and died. Now he uses a sprouting fig tree to illustrate how we will know the culmination of history is near when he will set up his kingdom on earth.
“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree. Whenever its branches become tender and leaf out with foliage, you know that the summer is near. In the same way whenever you see the things I’ve been talking to you about know that my coming is near, right at the door. Count on it! I’m telling you that this generation will not pass away until all these things happen. The heaven and the earth might pass away, but my word will not pass away.
Now concerning that day no one knows the time. The angels in the heaven don’t know. Not even the Son knows, only the Father.” Mark 13:28-32
Those who use the Bible to predict when the end will come and when Jesus will return need to read this Scripture more carefully. All of us should be humbled by the fact that when Jesus was here on earth he said that he didn’t even know in his humanity when he would return. As I’ve mentioned in previous Devos, Jesus is clear that all of us who claim to follow him need to be careful not to be deceived by false messiahs (v.5), we must not be overwhelmed by fear as wars, famines, and earthquakes shake our world (vv. 7-8), and we must use persecution for our faith, not as a call to revolution as the zealots in the first century did, but as an opportunity to witness to the Gospel (vv. 9-13).
Don’t be deceived! Understand Jesus’ teaching. Don’t give in to fear! God is writing the script of history. Respond to persecution with a more powerful Gospel witness, not armed conflict. We need to stop arguing and dividing over the time table of end time events and ask the Spirit of God to empower us to obey Jesus’ clear commands.
LORD, again help us to be communicating love towards those who don’t yet know you, and not wrestling with them over control and power.
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