Time-telling Trees

Steven Bouma-Prediger

Read: Mark 13:28-31

From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. (v. 28)

What time is it? I don’t mean time on your watch, what the Greeks called chronos, but time that is out of the ordinary, that is memorable and significant, what the Greeks named kairos. December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor Day, is one such kairos moment. So is July 21, 1969, the day when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. And September 11, 2001, is a kairos moment. Whether for good or for ill, certain times stand out for their life-changing significance.

In Mark 13 Jesus is concerned about whether his followers could discern the times. The present age was coming to an end. Jerusalem would be destroyed and the temple laid waste—inconceivable events for the Jews to believe. But Jesus persisted, like Isaiah and Amos, in spreading the not-so-good news of coming judgment.

To make his point, Jesus turned to the fig tree. From careful observation of this tree, one can learn that summer is coming. If the fig sprouts leaves, then summer is near. So by analogy Jesus stated: when you see certain things, e.g., false prophets and fake messiahs (Mark 13:22), then you will know that the kingdom of God (see Luke 21:31) is near. God’s reign can be perceived by those attentive to the signs of the times.

Jesus is bringing the kingdom of shalom in its fullness. Do we know what time it is? —Steven Bouma-Prediger

Prayer: Redeemer of all things, help us to bear faithful witness to your kingdom.