Where Is the Fruit?
George Everard, 1885
"He found nothing but leaves!" Mark 11:13
Our Lord was on His way to the city. He had now but a short season before the end; so, early and late, He must he doing His Father's will, and fulfilling His great mission. It was early in the morning, and, probably without tasting food, He had left the kindly shelter of Bethany. So now He is hungry, and seeing a fig-tree covered with leaves, He sought fruit thereon. He goes to the tree and turns over its broad leaves to see if at least a few figs might not be discovered. But it is in vain. True, we are told that the season was not yet; but if there were leaves — there might be fruit also, for usually the latter preceded the former. In any wise, our Lord teaches a very solemn lesson from the lack He found.
He never wrought a miracle of judgment on a single human being, and He never wrought but one — and it was on this tree. Only one short sentence was it; but this was enough: "May no one ever eat fruit from you again!" (verse 14). So it came to pass. The fig-tree is dried up from the roots. No fruit henceforth can possibly grow upon it, and all its fair covering of leaves, no more is seen. It immediately withers away, and is fit for nothing but to be cut down and committed to the flames.
The one point on which I wish to dwell is the Master's search for fruit among the leaves of this fig-tree. Leaf after leaf He may have turned over, but beneath each and all, He found nothing to satisfy Him.
How is it with yourself? Look upon the leaf as an emblem of a promise or profession of Christian living, and see if there is not yourself something of a parallel with the tree of which I am speaking.
Perhaps before coming to school you had kind and earnest words spoken to you as to the dangers you must avoid and the course you should follow. Words of caution bade you keep aloof from companions who would rob you of your value for truth and godliness. Counsel was added as to daily prayer, and courage to do right, and diligence in study. And you sincerely promised to keep to the straight path, and to use well these days of great opportunity.
Here was the leaf — but where is the fruit? What does the Master find in you corresponding to your purpose and promise? He looks over your life in the dormitory, in the schoolroom, in the cricket-field, in your school-chapel — and does He find you striving to do your best, to keep a good conscience, to shun evil, to set a Christian example, and to exercise an influence that may be helpful to those around you?
Or look at this in another way. I suppose week by week you go at least once or twice to the service in your chapel, or, it may be, in the Parish church. You join in the prayers that are offered up. You take up the words of the General Confession: "We have erred and strayed from Your ways like lost sheep. We have offended against Your holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us."
Here is the leaf — but where is the fruit? You confess you have done amiss. You utter words of repentance and humiliation. You speak as one poor in spirit, and deeply conscious of your sinfulness. But where is the reality of all this? Do you grieve when you fail in doing right? Do you in secret humble yourself before God for sin? Do you cherish a sense of your own unworthiness, and desire to amend your life?
But think again. You frequently use the Lord's Prayer. In the family, at home, in church, and perhaps in your secret prayers, you often repeat the words, "Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name. May Your kingdom come. May Your will be done in earth, as it is in Heaven."
Here is the leaf — but where is the fruit? You call God your Father, but have you the spirit of a loving and obedient child? You pray that God's name may be hallowed — but do you honor it in your conversation, in your reverence for His Word, His house, His day? You pray that His kingdom may come — but are you doing your part to advance it in your home, in your school, and wherever you have influence? You pray that God's will may be done — but are you making it your aim to do it by keeping His commandments, and, like the angels in Heaven, cheerfully running in the path He points out?
You stand up and acknowledge the faith you hold. You say, "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord," etc.
Here is the leaf — but where is the fruit? Do you believe in God as your Creator, so that you reckon yourself entirely to be His and not your own? Do you believe in Jesus as your Savior, so that you have in Him forgiveness and strength? Do you manifest your faith in Him by loving Him and serving Him day by day?
Once more, you take part in the General Thanksgiving. The words are uttered by you: "We bless You for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but, above all, for Your inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ."
Here is the leaf — but where is the fruit? Do you mingle true thanksgiving, with the prayers you offer? Do you praise God by the holiness and cheerfulness of your life? Do you see something of the marvelous loving-kindness of God in the work of Christ, so that you would gladly praise Him more and more?
Alas for him who has leaves — yet no fruit! You cannot deceive God. You cannot hide from Him, the barrenness of a heart that neither repents, nor prays, nor loves, nor longs to serve Him. And remember the outcome. You may bear fruit now, if you desire it; but by-and-by you cannot. You may quench the Spirit. You may provoke Him to withdraw from you His grace and help. You may lose every impression for good, all tenderness of conscience, and become "twice dead," as a tree in the vineyard withered and dried.
Let it not be so with you. The keeper of the vineyard still intercedes. He pleads for you that you may neither be left without grace, nor be cut down in your sins. Therefore come to Him who can pardon past days of neglect and fruitlessness. Come to Him and abide in Him by faith, and you shall bear much fruit.
"Happy still in God confiding,
Fruitful if in Christ abiding;
Holy through the Spirit's guiding,
All must be well."