Reverend Dr. William H. Curtis

Fruit in the Off-Season

Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.
Matthew 21:18-19 (NIV)

Jesus and the disciples have apparently left Mary and Martha’s house extremely early in the morning because after making some progress on their journey, Jesus is hungry. He and the disciples are headed to Jerusalem. They are near a place called Bethphage, a suburb just outside of the city. Jesus approaches a fig tree and starts lifting leaves, looking for some small figs. He knows it is unlikely that He would find any larger figs on this tree because they don’t generally ripen until the summer months.

The context of our passage places this event just before the month of March and even smaller figs don’t show up until March or April. When Jesus doesn’t find any figs on this tree, He curses the tree rather harshly, and interestingly enough, He places permanence on His curse. “May no fruit ever grow on this tree again!” And the fig tree withers immediately.

Jesus is expecting fruit on the tree, or maybe He’s expecting nothing at all but is just using it as a lesson. Either way, the tree is being cursed for not having fruit when it was not the season for the tree to bear fruit.

Isn’t that interesting? Why is Jesus looking for fruit when it is not the season for fruit to grow?

Perhaps He is telling us as His disciples, “I want your ministries to be fruitful in season and out. I want you to focus on spiritual growth. Make people matter. Be fair in your dealings. Be spiritual in your deportment. These are the lessons that Jesus is trying to teach the disciples, and maybe He’s teaching them that ministry and service will not always be based upon personal convenience.

Sometimes life will demand of you that you produce fruit even in off-seasons. That you learn how to extend effort and extend energy when you’re running on fumes yourself. That you show love when emotionally you are running on reserve. That you learn how to forgive people when nobody has forgiven you.

You can’t wait always until it’s the “right time” when God is inspiring you that it’s your right turn. Sometimes your turn has to be taken in the off-season.