Read through the lesson below. (If you are in a group take turns reading.) Then have a discussion. Possible questions are included at the end. If you are alone, try to pair up with others in a small group though texting or even a phone call.
“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.” Mark 11:12-14 (NIV)
The Life-Giving River of Healing
“In my vision, the man brought me back to the entrance of the Temple. There I saw a stream flowing east from beneath the door of the Temple and passing to the right of the altar on its south side. The man brought me outside the wall through the north gateway and led me around to the eastern entrance. There I could see the water flowing out through the south side of the east gateway.
Measuring as he went, he took me along the stream for 1,750 feet and then led me across. The water was up to my ankles. He measured off another 1,750 feet and led me across again. This time the water was up to my knees. After another 1,750 feet, it was up to my waist. Then he measured another 1,750 feet, and the river was too deep to walk across. It was deep enough to swim in, but too deep to walk through.
He asked me, ‘Have you been watching, son of man?’ Then he led me back along the riverbank. When I returned, I was surprised by the sight of many trees growing on both sides of the river. Then he said to me, ‘This river flows east through the desert into the valley of the Dead Sea. The waters of this stream will make the salty waters of the Dead Sea fresh and pure. There will be swarms of living things wherever the water of this river flows. Fish will abound in the Dead Sea, for its waters will become fresh. Life will flourish wherever this water flows. Fishermen will stand along the shores of the Dead Sea. All the way from En-gedi to En-eglaim, the shores will be covered with nets drying in the sun. Fish of every kind will fill the Dead Sea, just as they fill the Mediterranean. But the marshes and swamps will not be purified; they will still be salty. Fruit trees of all kinds will grow along both sides of the river. The leaves of these trees will never turn brown and fall, and there will always be fruit on their branches. There will be a new crop every month, for they are watered by the river flowing from the Temple. The fruit will be for food and the leaves for healing.’”
Ezekiel 47:1-12 (NLT)
The Church is called to be faithful to God’s plan, just as the Jews were called to be the priestly nation to the world. Unfortunately, there will be many fig trees (hypocritical) leaders and false prophets before Jesus returns, but we are to remain faithful. During the time of exile the prophet Ezekiel in chapter 47 tells of a river flowing out of the new temple. Again, representing the flow of God’s message to the rest of the world where along the banks of this river was lush fruit trees and all sorts of animals and plants flourishing. It even brings the Dead Sea to life. God gave Ezekiel this vision even in a time of exile.
Folks, this is something that is important for us right now to know and realize. Not everything printed or spoken is truth, even if it may also be quoting scripture. The prophets of the Old Testament, the apostles of the New Testament, and even Revelation hold true to God’s character. Yes, some of them speak of judgment, “The Day of the Lord,” the “beast,” or of wars, battles and even exile. However, they ALL ALSO speak of God the Creator, the Recreator, the Redeemer. They all also point to the New David, The Shoot of Jesse, the Lamb of God, redeeming or recreating His Creation. We are not saved through governments or economic systems. Revelation teaches us that all, even the good ones, fall to the human condition of sin. We are not saved through struggle or war but through love, acceptance, and compassion. So, in today’s world if you read or hear anything that is professing anything that does not include God’s character of creating, saving, recreating and redeeming; it is not pointing to Jesus and is not the truth.
The reason why the fig tree was cursed was because it had no fruit even though it was claiming it did. See a fig tree only leaves out when it has fruit. This one had leaves, so it was saying I have fruit (Truth) but in reality, it did not.
With this said, there is some truths we can see in our scripture for today. The river must flow, the fig tree must bear real fruit. We as the Church have been called to do the same. It says in Matthew, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20.
For the river to be a river it must flow, for a fruit tree to be a fruit tree it must bear fruit, for the Church to be the Church it must make disciples. In this time of all times we, the Church, have to continue to be the Church and be telling others about the “Good News” of Jesus Christ. We must care for all people, the sick and the healthy and bring both the hope we have in Jesus. Read the first line of the scripture I used again. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go…” It is in His authority that we are the Church! It is He that causes the river (the Church) to flow and go and to bring forth life through redeeming and re-creating, bringing forth new fruit.
1. So how do we go without going? How do we flow without actually moving from our homes in this time of crisis?
Suggestions: texting, calling, FaceTime, Skype, and zoom. Let’s use what technology we have and are comfortable with…even if that is setting down and filling out a card or writing a letter.
2. How can we continue to make disciples of those who do not believe in these times?
3. What part in all of this going and telling about God’s great plan do I have?