We are continuing with Jesus on Mt. Olivet. He has been answering His disciples’ question of what are the signs of the end of the age. He has shared quite a bit of information with them. Now He uses a parable to sum up the waiting.
We also looked at Jesus’ words in this context in Matthew in the blog titled “Lessons From the Fig Tree.” In that article we looked at the different interpretations concerning the “this generation” statement Jesus made. I have no more insight on that point than I did last time, so let’s not go there today. Feel free to check out what we discussed earlier though.
Today I would like to look at the seasons instead. When Jesus is referencing the fig tree He likens His approaching return to the approaching summer for the fig tree. Why do you think that is? I have a couple ideas I would like to share.
Where I spent most of my time growing up, we said we had four seasons just like everyone else: almost winter, winter, still winter, and construction. As you can probably guess, the winters could go on for a LONG time. I have, thankfully, moved to a nicer climate. So what do we expect from the real seasons? Summer is my favorite and the one Jesus referenced, so let’s save it for last.
Autumn or fall is a very beautiful time of year. My husband calls it God’s paintbrush. I love the colors that are revealed on the trees. Did you know that the trees are actually showing the true color of their leaves at this time of year? It’s true. Those beautiful hues you see in fall are the base color of the leaves. They are only green as long as they are viable and producing chlorophyll. The chlorophyll is what gives them their green color. All pretense and striving has ended by the time we see the true colors of the trees. Unfortunately, the leaf ends its life not long after dazzling us with its true beauty.
We are like the leaf when we finally decide to stop trying to be what others want us to be. When we embrace the truth of who God has made us to be, our beauty shines through. Unlike the leaf though, this revealing of our true beauty doesn’t signal the end of our lives.
The tree’s leaves begin falling because of a two way relationship coming to an end. The tree trunk was sending life-giving sap to the leaf to nourish it and help it grow. Once mature the leaf returns the favor by feeding the tree. The leaf, through the process of photosynthesis, turns light into energy for the tree. It sends that energy back to the tree through the sap. As fall progresses, the tree decreases its circulation of the sap. The colder weather thickens the sap and makes it harder to move through the tree. Without the ever present nourishment of the sap, the leaf can’t keep up its process of photosynthesis and also can’t nourish the tree. Once the bond is broken, the leaf will wither and die.
Our relationship with God is just as life giving as the tree’s relationship with the leaf. No, God doesn’t need our nutrients to sustain Himself, but He certainly cherishes that two way connection. He also uses us in His Kingdom work, like the tree uses its leaves and branches to support the fruit it bears. We, on the other hand, desperately need His life giving flow to sustain our lives and to do the Kingdom work He has called us to. Without Him we do wither. Without Him is certain death.
Winter is my least favorite season. For myself, the only good thing about winter is Christmas. I will play in the snow for a SHORT time with the grandkids, but I don’t enjoy it. I will admit that it is beautiful to look at, from the comfort of a warm house.
For the tree in our story, winter represents a season of enforced rest. The sap is very thick and stays close to the heart of the tree. The branches are bare and hardened by the lack of nutrients. They are not dead, but in a state of bare minimum survival. The weather around the tree buffets it with cold wind, snow, and freezing temperatures. The tree has to tuck in tight for survival.
We face times of winter in our lives too. These can be times of intense attack by Satan or times of enforced waiting. During these times we need to reach deep inside and hold onto the life sustaining truth of Jesus’ words. These seasons are never easy but they are inevitable.
Pruning also happens in winter. It is best to prune a tree when it is dormant. You don’t interrupt their nourishment or fruit cycle this way. You also don’t run the risk of making the tree bleed because the sap is close to the heart instead of high in the branches.
When we are in our winter phases, we often receive pruning too. It is in these times of struggle that we discover what truly matters. The unimportant or hindering things are stripped away and we are ready to face the next cycle of growth with renewed vision.
Spring is the season the fig tree in Jesus’ analogy is in. In the spring the sap begins to thin as the temperature rises. It begins its slow reaching back into the limbs and branches. As the life giving sap returns to the outer reaches of the tree, the branches become tender again. This tenderness allows the buds to begin forming in the old joints. Development of new branches and lengthening of older branches also happens. The places of pruning are especially ready for new growth. Buds appear on the tree in preparation and expectation of the fruit it will bear. Life can be seen returning to the tree.
For us, spring is a chance for new beginnings. The hard lessons have passed and we have a chance to use those lessons and grow from them. Our refocused heart can now move into the new growth God has prepared for it. Fruit is just over the horizon.
Summer is the fulfillment of all the promises. The tree is now producing the fruit that it worked so hard to nourish as a new bud. The life giving sap is flowing freely and bringing nutrients to the leaves, fruit, and back to the trunk with ease. The tree is finally doing what it was born to do; producing fruit pleasing unto its creator.
This is where we all long to stay. Basking in the warmth of His presence, producing fruit pleasing unto Him, and enjoying the two way relationship rich in blessings and thanksgiving. I can think of no better season in my walk with Him or in my physical life. Enjoying the sunshine He made (His presence). Fed by the fruits of the trees, bushes and ground (His word). Partaking in the activities of summer (His direction for my life). This is MY season!
In Jesus’ parable He put us on the cusp of two seasons. The tree was in its early to mid-spring season. It was just getting tender branches and beginning to bud. But He likens His coming to the summer. The tree is not home free once it hits spring. It still has to complete its springtime work in order to be ready for the approaching summer.
I believe Jesus chose sprig to represent our season just before His arrival for two reasons. The first reason is that the spring tree has just survived “death.” It has made it through the hardest season of its life and the promise of new life is on its horizon. That is exactly what those who survive the great tribulation will be experiencing. They will be going through the hardest season EVER, but the promise of new life just ahead will be what sustains them through their final work.
Jesus’ arrival will bring unimaginable life to those who are waiting. He is ready to step through the gate at the moment summer arrives. He doesn’t have to wait until some arbitrary date on the calendar either. The Father knows when the true season changes and He will signal Jesus at just the right time. That summer will last for eternity! The warmth, the light, and life all flow from the presence of God.
Father God, thank You for bringing the seasons into my life. I DO NOT enjoy the winters but I know that they are necessary and important. Thank You that my spiritual life isn’t made up of almost winter, winter, still winter, and construction. Thank You for the warmth of Your arms, even on the coldest of days. Thank You that even in the midst of the harshest winters, I can hold fast to Your word. You promise never to leave me nor forsake me. That promise alone is what has seen me through many winters already.
Thank You for the summer and the sunshine! Thank You for the fruit in Your word. Thank You for pointing it out to me so clearly at times. Those are the times it tastes best. You keep it hidden until the peak of perfection. Then You pull back the leaves to reveal the most wonderful fruit I have ever seen. Keep me always looking for what You have prepared for me.
Also, Lord Jesus, keep my sap pure. Don’t let me pollute what You have created in me by “drinking from the wrong streams” or by looking elsewhere for my nutrients. Remind me how pure Your water is whenever I’m thirsty. Prompt me to always be looking for Your true light and not to settle for any imitations. Warm me in Your arms and help me spurn all counterfeits. Only by using Your nutrients and provisions can my fruit be an acceptable offering for You.