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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood


The Fig Tree

Aug. 25, 2013

Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. (Mark 13:28,29, NIV)

Jesus is the Master Storyteller, but His stories are not told to entertain or to fill time. Rather they are told to make a point.

In Mark’s Gospel, the fig tree story is the only one from the Olivet Discourse reported by him. Mark wrote what has been called the “Reader’s Digest” Gospel. It has fewer words and chapters than the other three Gospels. Thus, it’s not surprising that only one story is related from Jesus’ discourse on the future.

Matthew’s fuller account records four additional stories of Jesus to illustrate the various aspects of the course of the age and His return to earth: The Wise and Foolish Servants (24:45-51), The Wise and Foolish Virgins (25:1-13), The Talents (25:14-30), and The Sheep and The Goats (25:31-46).

Altogether, in the Olivet Discourse, Jesus tells us the five ways we are to live in the course of our age: (1) Act responsibly (the wise servant), (2) Be prepared for Him at any moment (the wise virgins), (3) Be prepared to live a normal lifetime (the talents), (4) Act compassionately (treating those in need as if they were Jesus himself), and (5) Be prepared to suffer (Mark 13:9-13).

Jesus’ use of stories plants firmly in our memories the lessons He taught about the future. In particular, Mark’s account of the fig tree as a metaphor for the close of the age tells us human history is coming to a point of culmination.

The blooming fig tree represents the flowering of the four “things” Jesus refers to that mark the course of the age following His ascension into heaven until He returns: trouble in religion (deception and false christs), trouble in society (ethnic and political conflicts), trouble in nature (earthquakes, famines, pestilences), and trouble for disciples (persecution from government, religion, family and society).

In Mark 13:8, Jesus identified these four “things” or “markers” as “the beginning of birth pains.” Drawing from His analogy of birth pains, we know that as a mother’s labor continues the contractions come more rapidly and the pain becomes more intense. As Mark’s account of the Olivet Discourse draws to a close, the analogy switches from birth pains to the fig tree blossoming — in other words, the discourse shifts from the beginning of the end time to the close of the end time.

How do we apply this to our own lives, here and now?

First, Jesus is essentially telling every generation — because every generation lives with these “markers” or “things” — that we are to consider ourselves as living at the end. We are always “right at the door.” Eternity could come to us in a moment of time.

Thus, as Christians, we are to live with our bags always packed for the journey home!

Second, there is coming a last generation. We could be that generation. Certainly, in our time, the birth pangs of human history are becoming far more intense and more closely compacted together. The flowering fig tree story puts us on alert as we see the signs intensify that Jesus told us would herald the end of the age.

The good news is that Jesus is the Lord and has the times in His hand!

A prayer of response
Lord Jesus, if today is the day, I know You will welcome me home. Thank You for the gift of life eternal!

DR. GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.


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