Yesterday, we were left with great hope – the hope and glory of our faith: God’s kingdom is coming soon. Indeed, after lots of seemingly dark, apocalyptic imagery regarding the earth and the “Son of Man,” Christ tells his disciples to “stand up straight” (ἀνακύπτω) because, “your redemption is drawing near” (v. 28). This is the upside-down way of God’s kingdom, is it not? When the darkness of the world feels overwhelming, God graciously makes a way toward redemption.
Our passage today continues to expound upon this eschatological imagery/language with a simple parable. Christ draws on creation imagery again to help the disciples understand, and anticipate, His coming kingdom:
And he told them a parable, “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. (21:29-30)
Fig trees. Apart from Fig Newtons and figs baked over a block of brie (ask me for the recipe sometime), my knowledge of figs is scant. I imagine you might be in a similar position, because figs aren’t the most common fruit. However, to the disciples, this would have been a familiar sight. During winter, like most trees, a fig tree loses its fruit and leaves – it’s bare. This barrenness, however, led to a particularly fruitful leafing in the summer – the fruit literally wraps around the limbs of the tree and hangs from the branches in abundance. So, this image would have struck the disciples minds, and ears, with delight, because it meant summer had arrived along with fruit of the season. So, Jesus goes on:
So, also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. (21:31)
Jesus is clear here – connecting what he is describing in the fig trees with the coming kingdom. The “these things” to which he refers is the imagery from our passage yesterday. Like the disciples, we often fear apocalyptic language in Scripture; it can feel dark, and if we’re honest, at times, gloomy. But Jesus is kindly reassuring them to find hope! He tells them that the coming kingdom is like this great fruit blooming forth in season. Edwards says it well, “Unless history can be redeemed, the fallen greatness of human life is the final and tragic word” (Edwards, The Gospel According to Luke). Take great comfort in this truth.
But, Christ is saying even more: He is foreshadowing His death and resurrection. Like the fig tree, which goes through a season of “death” (winter), so, too, Christ’s earthly life will come to an end in His death on the cross; but, just like the fig tree bears fruit in its season, so, too, will Christ’s kingdom in His resurrection – ushering in the “summer” of God’s glorious kingdom. As the disciples hear these words, Israel has been in a “winter” as a people – waiting over 400 years for the Messiah’s arrival. The hope of Christ’s resurrection is our fig tree fruit bursting forth the season of God’s kingdom. Indeed, God’s kingdom is near – summer has come, in Christ!
Take some time to thank the Lord today for the “winter” of Christ’s death and the “summer” which comes in Christ and his resurrection, and will come again – just as His Word says.