Which comes first; fruit or green leaves?
The fruit of the Spirit who is in us all can clearly be seen as the words and deeds of Christians, in righteousness and brotherly love, by which the whole body of Christ is drawn together united in the salvation of Jesus, as the Father’s love for all His children, all the believers, who are found in every Christian denomination and group. Knowing in this way how important the fruit of the Spirit is to Christian unity, it can be learned and understood just what Jesus said, and why, in the Parable of the Fig Tree.
Matthew 24: 32 ¶ Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
Mark 13: 28 ¶ Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near:
29 So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors.
30 Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.
Luke 21: 29 ¶ And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees;
30 When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand.
31 So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.
32 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.
So why did Jesus make specific reference to the fig tree? Many trees turn green in the spring, telling us the summer is coming. Why did Jesus make a point of the fig tree in particular?
Because not only does the fig tree bear fruit, but also, unlike all the other trees, the fig tree grows the fruit *before* the leaves sprout and turn green. The fig tree sprouting green leaves is a sign that can be recognized from afar off that the fruit is there now ready to be enjoyed. This is why Jesus used the fig tree in His parable, because anyone who understands the importance of Christian unity of all believers, regardless of denomination, will also know how important the fruit is to Christian unity, and will easily recognize the lesson, as seen in the true life story of Jesus coming from Bethany to the fig tree which Jesus, Himself, cursed for not bearing fruit.
Mark 11:12 ¶ And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry:
13 And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.
14 And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.
15 And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;
16 And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.
17 And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.
18 And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.
19 And when even was come, he went out of the city.
20 And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.
21 And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.
22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.
23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.
24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.
25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.
The relationship between the fig tree and it’s leaves, as seen in the story of the fig tree that Jesus cursed as He went out from Bethany, is well explained in the excerpt, shown below, from the 1914 copyright book, “The Fourfold Gospel”, by J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton.
Here’s the pertinent excerpt from that book:
“As the fruit usually appears before the leaves, the leaves were a promise that fruit might be found, and the fruit, though not perfectly ripe, is considered edible when the leaves are developed. Though it was too early for fruit, it was also too early for leaves. The tree evidently had an unusually favorable position. It seemed to vaunt itself by being in advance of the other trees, and to challenge the wayfarer to come and refresh himself.”
This excerpt shown above can be found on the web page at this link:
This whole book is available online through the good graces of the Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) whose mission is to build up the church by making classic Christian literature widely available and promoting its use for edification and study by interested Christians, seekers and scholars. See their Homepage at this link:
The fig tree sprouting the first green leaves is the first primary sign in the body of Christ that can be seen by all, even those afar off in the world, from which the body of Christ is sanctified and set apart. In Christian unity, we’re all sanctified and set apart, afar off from the world because the world only understands the pride of life and the unrighteous things of the flesh.
1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world
By contrast, we in the body of Christ are set apart with regard to these things, afar off and away from the world, because we have all finally crucified the old, carnal man of unrighteous and immoral acts, and also crucified the old carnal man of divisions, and we Christians all now walk together in unity, walking in the man of the Spirit, in righteousness and brotherly love as Jesus commands.
John 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
Because we understand Christian unity to be unity in the Father’s self-sacrificial love for all of God’s children, of every Christian denomination and group, because we know that we believe in it right now, and because we now work for it to the point of self-sacrifice, we have the kind of faith in Christian unity that makes our faith alive, and we know that we bear the living fruit of the eternal Spirit now, the fruit that God approves and the fruit that remains into eternity unity in Jesus.
James 2:14 ¶ What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
We Christians who see that Christian unity is the one fig tree where we all bear fruit in the faith of our common salvation in Christ, know together that the green leaves of the fig tree sprout forth from all of us, as a sign for all in the world to see from afar off. We know that Jesus, too, is looking for the fruit of His Spirit to be born in all of us, and that He’s coming back soon, to begin harvesting the good fruit. Just as no branch will survive that does not bear good fruit in the vine who is Jesus, neither will any fig tree survive that does not bear good figs as fruit of the Spirit, in God’s purpose of Christian unity.
We also know that God is now warning the Christians who don’t bear the fruit of the Spirit united in Jesus, in His fervent love of all the brethren, that they are trying His patience, and that they will soon be held eternally accountable for producing fruit that remains of value to the eternal Lord of the harvest.
Luke 13:6 ¶ He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.
7 Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?
8 And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:
9 And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.