August 30 I Thursday
1 Corinthians 11:1-16
“‘How do you know me?’ Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, ‘I saw you while you were still under the fig-tree before Philip called you.’” —John 1:48
When attaching significance to images in the Bible, we must be careful, especially when it does not directly apply to the image. However, there are times we can draw patterns from recurring images. Before Jesus met Nathanael, He knew exactly who he was—“an Israelite in whom there is no deceit” (John 1:47) and where he was—under a fig tree. Fig trees are used in Scripture to represent Israel, which could be why Jesus made particular mention of Nathanael being an Israelite.
Fig trees also carry an ominous history, and Jesus may have contrasted this with the refreshing honesty He saw in Nathanael.
The first time Scripture mentions fig trees is in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating of the forbidden fruit, one of the consequences was they became embarrassed by their nakedness. To hide their shame, they fashioned coverings for themselves made from fig leaves, but after God confronted them, He made them clothes of animal skins. This was the first foreshadowing that animal sacrifices would be required under the Law to deal with sin.
We also find in Mark 13 how Jesus viewed a particular fig tree. The week before He was crucified, He saw one in the distance rich in foliage. Because He was hungry, He checked it for figs, but found nothing but leaves. Jesus cursed the tree, and when He and His disciples passed by it the next morning, they saw it had withered. Without the life of Christ, we are like that withered fig tree. We may look good and prosperous to many people, but as far as God is concerned, we are incapable of bearing fruit. In Luke 13, Jesus told a parable involving a fig tree that had not borne fruit for three years. When the owner saw it was not producing fruit, he wanted it cut down. This parable was a warning to Jews who were engaged in religious activity but had no life or genuine relationship with God.
Fig trees have large leaves that make a lush display, but anyone looking at one from afar might not notice the lack of fruit behind the leaves. Sometimes we try to hide our shame or fruitlessness behind fig leaves of human ability, accomplishments, status and flattering reputations, but God sees us exactly as we are. Only in union with Christ—abiding in Him and His abiding in us are we empowered to produce fruit. Depending on our own strength and abilities will leave us hiding behind fig leaves, but allowing Christ to work in us and through us, we will bear fruit, nurtured and fueled by His sufficiency.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You know who I am and where I am. Forgive me for trying to hide behind any façade, and thank You for being all that I need in bearing fruit for You.