Check Your Fruit

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 3/15/2020

Hello Everyone! Welcome to our first ever online-only church service!

(1) Watch for updates via Email-Text-Website-Facebook. 

(2) Pray for our many health professionals who are on the front lines and greatest risk of exposure. Pray this virus will be driven out. 

(3) Pray for our leaders to have wisdom. Hard decisions lay ahead. 

(4) Pray for our Elderly folks, who are at greatest risk. They are restricting visits to hospitals and care facilities. So make phone calls, email, and reach out. 

(5) We’ve setup a CARE Fund to help Lakeside folks as hardship arises. 

(6) CORE Fund giving is critical. We begin most years slow, but then catch up. Right now we are about 2-3 Sundays behind giving. We’re cutting as much discretionary spending as possible. 

(7) Online Giving is safe, secure, and brings stability to this ministry. You can mail or drop tithes off at the church office throughout the week. 

(8) For all the negatives, this is an exciting time in which God is building our faith for even greater things. Remember, we walk by faith, not by sight! 

Yesterday, I hopped in my Jeep, and drove to McDonalds. I had the news playing of course, and I was being bombarded with a steady stream of bad news. The fog of fear and uncertainty is so thick, you can cut it with a knife! People are spooked. The market. Politicians. Health professionals. The Elderly. Caregivers. Clergy. It’s like a dark storm is brewing in the distance, and everyone has emptied the shelves. But we trust the shelves to be restocked. We trust the storm to come and pass. We trust that we will be the lucky ones. We know there is real danger, but we also know the media’s propensity to hype every danger often with ulterior motives. We anxiously circulate humor, and scurry about, while we await our fate. Will this be a plague or just another cough?

In the first century world, there was real, substantive, perpetual fear. They felt the weight of one looming crisis after another. They felt the weight of food insecurity—providing bread/fish for your family was a daily struggle! They lived life without toilet paper and paper towels! They felt the weight of health crisis. There was no pain relief. No hospitals. No modern technology. No miracles and no miracle workers. There was no financial security—no place to safely store up treasure without thieves breaking in to steal, or moth/rust destroying your investments. 

For most of us our lives have been so comfortable and blessed. We don’t know what it really feels like to trust God across the full spectrum of human need! But that is what Jesus is trying to teach his disciples in Mark. He is trying to teach them not just to trust God in life, but also in death, and through death, and beyond death. Trusting God in life is the “elementary” lesson. Our daily needs. Our finances. Our health. The crisis of the day. It’s all elementary! I didn’t say insignificant, I said elementary. But trusting God in death is the “graduate level” lesson—and this is what Jesus is doing in Mark. 

By the time we get to Mark 11, Jesus is at the peak of his public popularity. Up until this time Jesus has ministered to people in towns, and tiny villages, and homes “outside” Jerusalem. He has helped people greatly in life. He has healed. He has saved lives. He has filled the hungry. But now the time has come for Jesus to go into Jerusalem. There was zero doubt in Jesus’ mind what this would mean. In Mark 8, in Mark 9, in Mark 10 over and again, he has told his disciple he must go and suffer, and be rejected, and betrayed, and killed, but then raised after three days. 

You know death is a funny thing. Death is a conversation were always kicking down the road. Who is really ready to die? For Jesus the storm is building. He will not be one of the lucky ones. His number is being called. A cross and horrific suffering awaits him. But then so does resurrection and glory—but nobody understands that yet—not even the disciples. Just let that sink in. The true part of our fear is that death will come. But the true part of faith, is that death will not be ultimate, IF WE HAVE JESUS. 

In Jerusalem Jesus will die, and his time has now come. He sets his face like flint for Jerusalem. We steely resolve, he submits to God’s purpose and plan. In Mark 11 Jesus chooses to enter the city in a most peculiar way. He sends two disciples forth with instructions to secure a colt, on which no one had ever sat. He says, “Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here right away.’” *Everything happens as Jesus instructs. The disciples bring the colt to Jesus, they threw their clothes on it, and he sat on it. 

As Jesus enters the city, the most remarkable thing happens. Mark 11:8-10 says, “Many people spread their clothes on the road, and others spread leafy branches cut from the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted: Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 

The crowd’s cheers Are not unlike Peter’s confession, “thou are the Christ.” They are declaring something profoundly true about Jesus, but what do they really understand? These same crowds chanting “Hosanna” will soon be chanting “Crucify.” The same lips that declared, “You are the Christ” not only “rebuked” Jesus but would soon deny Jesus. 

Like Peter, the crowd is about to learn a vital lesson. Jesus isn’t a blank screen, unto which we project all our hopes, and aspirations, and dreams, and demands. We’re not free to create Jesus in our own image, according to our own ideology, wants and needs. Jesus has come to suffer and die for our flagrant sins, to conquer death for us once and for all, to offer us an eternal grave-busting, resurrection hope. In Jerusalem, he is going to demonstrate his power/authority to offer good news we profoundly need! 

But the crowd has a tough lesson to learn, and so do we. Christ’s Kingdom is not a physical/ material/ earthly/ political utopia. His Kingdom is an eternal, everlasting, spiritual, heavenly kingdom. It has profound earthly implications, but it’s a spiritual kingdom. It’s a Kingdom in which God reigns from the heart, and from the mind, from the inside-out. 

Mark 11 is a cautionary tale. We ought to realize how what God sees, and man sees, can be worlds removed. The crowds saw an earthly king; but Jesus was of heaven. The crowds saw an exalted King, but Jesus rode low, and meek, on a donkey. A donkey! The crowds saw Jesus ascending to David’s city, to take David’s throne, to conquer Rome. But Jesus was descending, to take up a cross, to lay down his life, to suffer and die, to conquer sin/death. The crowds blessed Jesus, but he was about to become a curse for them, taking upon his flesh, their sin before God. Mark 11:1-10 is an epic illustration of how we can be ever hearing, but not really understanding… ever-seeing, but not really perceiving… 

Mark 8-9-10 were about Jesus opening our ears, and opening our eyes. What is this life Jesus has for us? Mark 8:34-38, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me and the gospel will save it. For what does it benefit someone to gain the whole world and yet lose his life? What can anyone give in exchange for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” *Rest assured. The crowds weren’t signing up for a Mark 8:34-38 life! 

People fixate on the details of the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, but that’s not the focus of Mark. Mark 11:11 says, “He went into Jerusalem and into the temple. After looking around at everything, since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.” It’s not what this verse says that fascinates me, but what it doesn’t say! Are there any more ominous words in Scripture? The God of the Universe, in the flesh. “After looking around at everything.” After looking around at what? 

Can you imagine if… Jesus went into Springfield, and into Lakeside. After looking around at everything. . . If Jesus were to show up here, what might he notice? What might please him? What might stir his anger? Would we even want to know? Would we even want to be here if he showed up? What would he think of our worship? Our prayers? The sermon! Communion? Our fellowship? Our offerings? Whether we use our talents, abilities, and spiritual gifts? What would he think of this space, our financial ledger, our beliefs, our vision statements, our busy schedules, our conversations, our priorities, what about our love? 

In the opening chapters of Revelation, God sends forth an Angel to confront and rebuke the churches of Asia Minor. If that is any indication of what might happen, there would be far more cause for concern than commendation! I just want to say by the way, that God is looking at this church! In Luke 8:17 Jesus says, “For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing concealed that will not be known and illuminated.” Hebrews 4:13 says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” 

So in Mark 11, God is visiting his Holy Temple, just like the prophets of old, warned. But Jesus shows up the night before to look around. He’s going to check things out and sleep on it a night. I always knew I was in deep trouble as a kid when Dad was so angry he didn’t say anything but slept on it until morning! Oh boy. Are you ready? 

Look at Mark 11:12-13, “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.” The night before, he was looking into the temple. Now he’s looking into this tree. The tree has no fruit. Mark 11:14, “Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.” 

Mark 11:15-21, “On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” { I could spend hours telling you all the ways the 1st Century Jews commercialized the temple, and its sacrificial system. What’s far more relevant today, is how we’ve commercialized Christ’s Church, and turned it into a self-serving enterprise, and largely forsaken our mission to be a house of prayer for all nations. But I digress! The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. 

When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city. In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!” 

It isn’t just the Temple, the Church. It’s our individual lives that are so void of fruit. There is the fruit of Christian evangelism. New life that’s come because we share Jesus with others. here is the fruit of Christian character. The fruit of the Spirit are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” There is the fruit of Christian love—by this all men will know you are my disciples is you love one another. How terrifying it would be if Jesus started looking around our church, and starting rustling your leaves (and mine), peering into our life, hunting for fruit! 

I don’t know about you, but I want there to be clusters and clusters of fruit on the day Jesus returns, and visits. We needn’t speculate what so deeply disturbed Jesus in the temple, when he looked into that fig tree…. We needn’t speculate what Jesus so deeply hungers for when he looks at his Church, and his people (you/me). 

I close with Mark 11:22-25, “‘Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” 

Let me ask you, what is the source of God-pleasing fruit? It is faith. If there is one thing God is looking for even more than fruit, I’d say its faith. Without faith it’s impossible to please God. Whatever this Coronavirus thing is…. What it may not be… this life is about growing in faith and bearing much fruit for God’s glory. This crisis is about you and me growing in fruit and bearing much fruit. Our fearful world needs to see faith. Our toilet paper hoarding, panic-stricken culture, needs to see the fruit of the Holy Spirit, Christian love, generosity. 

They need to see a church that takes its marching order from Jesus, and fully trusts Jesus to make good on his promise. Mark 8:34-38, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me and the gospel will save it. For what does it benefit someone to gain the whole world and yet lose his life? What can anyone give in exchange for his life?

Scripture Verses

Mark 11:1-26

Worship Playlist

Your Grace Is Enough by Chris Tomlin

Broken Vessels by Hillsong

King of My Heart by Bethel

O Praise the Name (Anastasis) by Hillsong

Study Questions

  1. Leaders often become a blank screen unto which people project their personal hopes and aspirations. What types of hope do people project on political leaders? Have you ever put too much trust or hope in a leader? If so, explain.
  2. Read Mark 11:1-11. What kind of hopes and aspirations might the crowds have projected on to Jesus? What do Christians today fairly or unfairly project on to Jesus?  
  3. Jesus would forcefully recalibrate the expectations of his disciples and followers. What might it have been like to see Jesus curse the fig tree Mark 11:12-14?  
  4. Read Mark 11:15-19. What was God's purpose and desire for the temple? How did God's purpose become perverted over time? What is God's purpose and desire for our Church? How can we sometimes forget our mission of connecting people to God? What can we do to be realigned to God's purpose?   
  5. Read Mark 11:20-26. What is the fruit Jesus was looking for among his disciples? What kind of fruit is Jesus looking for in our lives? Are we bearing good fruit?  
  6. Read Galatians 5:16-26. What are the two different types of fruit people can exhibit in their life? Where do you see the most fruit from your life?   
  7. Read 1 John 1:5-10. How does God invite us into a place of honesty in these verses? What positive action can we take when we realize a gap between our heart, our profession, and our behavior? 

Apply It!

Resources

At the Lakeside Bookshelf:

Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of The Son of God by Timothy Keller