The following is based upon gospel ministry given in a Philadelphia meeting on May 6, 2018.
There is a story of Jesus and his disciples walking toward Jerusalem. Along the way, Jesus saw a fig tree in the distance, and upon approaching it, he saw that it had leaves but no fruit, “for the time of the figs was not yet”(Mk. 11:13). Then Jesus cursed the tree, saying, “No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever” (14). Though it was the nature of the tree to bear figs only in season, he cursed the tree for having no fruit.
As with so many incidents that take place in Scripture, this story tells us something of ourselves, and in this story, we are being taught something about what is expected of us as human beings. Like the fig tree, we humans have a particular nature, the human nature, and what its fruits are is well-known to each of us: we have our particular strengths and limitations, our seasons of fear and desire, our fruits of virtue and vice. These all are a part of our human nature.
We are being told in this story that just as more was expected of the fig tree than its nature could yield, more, too, is expected of us than that which our nature can produce. To meet the expectations that are placed upon us–and that we place upon ourselves–we must be more than what our nature confines us to be. We are commanded to be righteous and loving (Jn. 15:12), yet human nature does not allow us to be this; it always lets us down. We try and we fail, and we try again.
How are we to handle this problem with which we are cursed? Is self-deceit our nature’s only possible escape from imposed and internalized expectations of the unattainable? Is the honest person’s only option the agonized cry of Paul: “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24)
It is through receiving the spirit of Christ that we become more than our nature allows. It is through receiving this Spirit that we may bear divine fruit of love and righteousness, which is beyond human nature to yield. We prepare to receive this divine Spirit by stilling our human nature and waiting in truth, in that emptiness where, in truth, Truth is not yet come. Through waiting to receive, Friends found that Truth is given, and our human nature transcended and fulfilled. Friends of Truth discovered that we could come into unity with the One whose divine image we bear as sons and daughters of God, and thus come into loving, righteous fellowship with one another. Their discovery confirms the reality that, in any age, we humans can bear the fruits of the Spirit, in season and out, no longer prevented by the confines of our nature; it is the one true miracle!
Who are ingrafted into Christ? Can any one be ingrafted into him, but as he is inwardly revealed and made known? Yea, is not he in them who are ingrafted into him, and are not they in him? Is not he that is truly regenerated cut off from the old stock within, from the root of bitterness within; and is not he implanted into the new stock within also; insomuch as he sensibly feeleth the pure, holy root of life bear him, and the sap thereof springing up in him, causing him to bring forth fruit to God in due season? (Penington. Works: IV, 165.)