Jesus used parables often…comparing spiritual things with things found in nature. Now for the attentive ear of the Believer, the parable gave better understanding and a deeper meaning to His message. But to the unbeliever, it was just a story about a barren tree. Our lives here on earth are like that fig tree, effective and producing good fruit or desolate. So the central theme of this parable Jesus wants us to remember is…repent or perish. “For trees not producing good fruit will be cut down.” (Matthew 3:10)
In these Scriptures Paul is speaking to Gentile Christians…then and now. For in this man-centered world we are cut-off from the promises of God…or as Paul wrote, “without hope and without God.” But we have been brought near to God by the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus Christ…who gave His life as a atonement so we may have the gift of eternal life. God’s compassion was evident to fallen man when we read Isaiah 65:1 which says, “I revealed Myself to those who didn’t ask for Me; I was found by those who didn’t seek Me.” We were once expelled from the dominion of God, banished and living in exile when Jesus came and paid the price…reconciling us back to God and destroying the barrier that sin had created.
Elsewhere in Mark 13:6-7, Jesus told His disciples, “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in My name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many.” Now if you’re like me the idea of being deceived by someone attempting to take the place of Jesus…claiming to be His counterpart yet actually being His antithesis is hard to imagine. But yet Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:24, “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible.” And according to I John 2:18 they exist and are among us right now, for it reads, “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many Antichrists have come…” So how can we heed this warning from Jesus not to be deceived? The first thing is to know the truth…the Word of God, so when we hear lies or warped, twisted truths we will recognize them immediately. The other is to listen carefully… “If there is denial that Jesus is the Christ from such a man, he is the Antichrist – for he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; for whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” (I John 2:22-23)
I had the “Rules of the Road” booklet for the State of Illinois out the other day when I thought to myself, “My goodness! Driving a car sure has lots of rules and regulations tied to it!” The same goes for the Old Testament Laws spoken of here…all 613 of them. In this verse Paul was quoting Deuteronomy 27:26 and basically telling us that it’s impossible to keep all 613 Laws perfectly. So what are we to do? We’re doomed before we even try. Enter Jesus Christ, who came to redeem us from the judgement and punishment of this curse, for it tells us in Galatians 3:13 “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us…” In other words, our inability to keep all the Laws was overcome by the blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
Across the centuries people have called for world peace. And for a moment it may happen…but then, evil gets in the way. Except here, Micah is telling us about a time when there will be lasting world peace. For the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, will come and He will judge with all righteousness and justice. (Isaiah 11:4) There will no longer be any need for weapons, for there will no longer be hostility or conflict in the world, because Jesus will mediate all disputes. So with world peace, the arms of war will be turned into tools of agriculture in order to feed the nations.
The Greek word for fellowship is Koinonia. Now when we talk about fellowship or fellow-shipping together, our idea of it may be different from the true meaning. For many of us think of fellow-shipping together as fun social gatherings…where we mix and mingle, often with lots and lots of Potluck dishes, but little mention of God. But this word Koinonia has a much deeper and spiritual meaning. When as a Believer we learn to commune or share intimately with God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ…it’s called Koinonia. And when the Body of Believers come together, it’s Koinonia when we share our love, faith, and encouragement with each other. For when we are truly fellow-shipping one with another, we are sharing what we have in common…our love and joy for the Lord.
It could have me with that agitated crowd yelling, “Crucify Him!” Or worse yet, it could have me standing within that frenzied crowd too scared to open my mouth and object to the injustice I was witnessing. Would I have just stood there silently condoning the atrocity as it played out before me, more afraid of man than God? Yes, that could have been me.
It could have been me among that group of dosing disciples. There they were in the Garden of Gethsemane, having just been warned by Jesus to watch and pray as He moved off to pray alone. Coming back to them, Jesus was dismayed to find them all sleeping and asked, “Are you sleeping? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you won’t fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Mark 14:38) Yes, it could have been me that Jesus found asleep. For how many times have I started to pray only to have my mind wander and become distracted after only a few minutes?
To paraphrase Acts 26:18…We are to turn from spiritual darkness to the light of Jesus Christ… from the limited power of Satan to the infinite power of God, so that we may receive forgiveness of our sins and a place among fellow Believers who are sanctified by faith in Jesus. The Lord has snatched us from danger and set us free…the chains have been broken off and we are no longer a slave to sin and the jurisdiction of darkness…for the Kingdom of God is now residing within our hearts. (Luke 17:21)
These verses remind me of the old Hymn, “What a Friend I have in Jesus.” When our burdens are too heavy to bear…our friend Jesus is there, ready to take those burdens and offer support and comfort. When pain and sorrow fills our body…our friend Jesus is there at the right hand of God interceding, and pleading on our behalf. Yes, if we think about it, there really is no better friend than Jesus.