Nothing But Leaves

By Dr. James R. Miller

“Seeing a fig-tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find anything thereon.” – Mark 11:13

There were many other fig-trees in that region, but Jesus did not turn to any of them to look for food, because they gave no promise, made no show or pretense of having fruit. He went to this tree because by its early leaves it declared to all who saw it that it had also early fruit. Christ does not expect to find spiritual fruit on the life of the godless man or the worldly woman; but he does expect it on the life of the man or woman who professes to be a Christian.

As Jesus turned to that fig-tree, drawn thereto by the tree’s profession of fruitfulness, so hungry souls turn to the Church and to God’s professed people to find spiritual food. What that tree with leaves and no fruit was to Jesus, the Jewish Church was to the people in their soul-hunger. With their burden of sin, with their deep heart-questionings, with their sorrows, with their unsatisfied longings, with their yearnings for help and sympathy, they turned to the priests, the professed spiritual guides, if haply they might get from them what they wanted. So the mission of every Christian Church is to feed hungry souls. In the hour of penitence, when the soul is conscious of guilt; in the day of trouble, when the world has no more to give; in the shadow of death, in all the great crises of life, even the most worldly turn to the Church for what they need.

A church is like a great tree in the desert which holds out the promise of fruit, and toward which all the spiritually hungry turn. There can be few sadder things in this world than a church, promising by its very name, by its spire pointing to heaven, by its open doors, by its songs and services, by its bells of invitation, to give food to the hungry, refreshment to the weary, comfort to the sorrowing, and then failing to keep its promises to the souls that come expecting.

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