Good Morning Brothers…
I listened to the story, communicated through the phone, in a state of disbelief. “He did what?”, I asked. “I know, can you believe that. He was driving down the (dirt) road and came to the little bridge, looked over the side and saw my bucket with a conibear in front (a trap placed in front of a bucket containing bait) and pulled his truck over and crawled down there and pulled the whole trap.”, my buddy recounted to me. “And then”, he continued, “he called me to ask if it was really my bucket and trap!” “Well”, I exclaimed, “why would your name be on someone else’s trap?” “That’s what I told him! It really gets under my skin when Game Wardens use their ‘mission and duty’ to interrupt a hunt, or ruin any chance of catching any critters because the trap is riding around in the back of their truck.” “I hear you, I would much rather walk back to my truck in the dark, after an evening hunt, and show the Warden my license and tag. Instead of them walking through the woods trying to find me in my treestand…that gets under my skin because they just ruined the whole hunt!”
The phrase “under my skin” is often used to describe something that is an irritant, but otherwise, no big deal. In most cases I think that interpretation is true, however, there is another way to look at it. Something that gets “under my skin” always gets under. It doesn’t matter if I’m in a good mood or bad mood, those things, always seem to get under. I spent the weekend listening to many different men preach and teach on a wide range of subjects but they all revolved around sin and surrendering our lives to the Lord. I heard many different speakers use the term “big one”, or “big one’s” when referring to sin. The phrase would usually be spoken in one of two ways. “I wasn’t involved with any of the “big one’s”, so I thought I was doing OK.” Or, “I was the worst guy here, I was involved with all of the “big one’s”, like drugs, pornography, infidelity, etc.”
The phrase “big one’s” really got me to thinking. I know that this world, our culture, is allied with satan to keep us from a communal relationship with God. This allegiance causes the messages we receive about “truth” to be warped and twisted. Sadly, often the messages about “God’s truth” become warped and twisted because of the culture we live. We have been indoctrinated against God’s truth, in very subtle ways, that reveal themselves when we try to live out our faith. I started to wonder what would be on Jesus’ list of “big one’s”. Or, in other words, if I could have a candid conversation with Jesus, what would be the things that get “under His skin.” Obviously, the Bible is a good place to start when asking Jesus questions. I flipped open my Bible to the FAQ (frequently asked questions) section and quickly located Jesus’ answers.
Matthew 21:18-19 says, “Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered.”
The disciples were with Jesus and watched this happen. Before we read their question and Jesus’ response, I want to point something out. The fig tree had leaves on it, which means it wasn’t dead, their was life flowing through the tree. The disciples have already heard Jesus preach on trees. Matthew 7: 15-20 says, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.”
This earlier teaching expressed the disciples need (and ours) to be aware of the fruit presented to us. I’ve heard it said that we (Christians) are not fruit inspectors, however, I tend to disagree. I think we have the God given ability, through the Holy Spirit, to inspect fruit. The story about the fig tree is a different set of circumstances. The fig tree didn’t have bad fruit, it had no fruit. It had life, it had leaves, it had all of the appearances of a ‘good fruit’ producing tree…but it had none. Lets go back to the text to pick up the rest of the story, “Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, “How did the fig tree wither all at once?” And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
This passage is often interpreted to empower the Believer to a stronger faith. I agree with that, but ask the following to question, “To what end…specifically?” The disciples just watched the power of faith, the power of God, wither a fig tree, barren of fruit but full of life…to nothing. Jesus responds to their question with a lesson about prayer leading to faith. A faith so strong it can wither trees and move mountains. What does the answer have to do with the tree? Why does a lesson on faith become the answer to a fruitless tree? What was it about the tree, and us, that gets “under His skin?”
The tree had life. It should be fruitful, but it was hoarding the life given to it for its own sustenance. A Believer which hoards the life giving Spirit of the Lord and will not share that life with others, needs a lesson in prayer leading to a stronger faith. A stronger faith causes the fruit to grow and be shared with others. The answer to the disciples question is essentially, “Do not be like this tree, strengthen your faith through prayer, that you may bear fruit.”
Next week, we will look at a few more things that caused Jesus to get angry. Things that get “under His skin”, not only back then, but now, and in the future.