Holy Week Blog: Tuesday
In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.
When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. –Matthew 21:18-21 (ESV)
Jesus never wasted a moment to teach His disciples. Even during Holy Week, as He prepared for the culmination of all things–His death, burial, and resurrection–He wanted to show them that Israel and the Temple would not last but rather, only He and His Kingdom would.
Amazingly, we forget this, for we pour so much into the things that don’t last.
Consider how much we are preparing for Easter, not for the actual celebration of the Resurrection, but for everything else. We look for the right clothing to wear, the first and best that Spring fashion has to offer. The Easter candy aisles at the stores continue to call us to them, enticing us with more candy than we could ever possibly eat. (Except for peeps, because that is not candy and it is leftover from last year.) What about the Easter eggs? How chicken farmers must love this time of year! We need to buy and boil several dozen eggs, decorate them, and then hide them so that they can be found! Well, most of them, anyway. And we haven’t even got to Easter dinner with family yet.
Where is the fruit in all this? In what have we invested to bear the fruit to which Jesus refers? We have worried about the tree and how it looks. Perhaps we’ve even taken care to prune it to be certain it grows. But the real work to ensure that there is fruit? The painstaking love and care and sacrifice needed to produce fruit? That’s another story.
You see, we are reminded in this brief exchange of some important aspects of Jesus and what He was about to do.
He was hungry, indicating His humanity. Jesus is fully human. When He saw no fruit on the fig tree, He was more than disappointed; He was reminded of what was going to happen. The fig tree, a common symbol for Israel, had plenty of religion but no fruit. He was hungry for them to produce fruit that would bear more fruit. They didn’t, though. So, like the fig tree, they would be cursed. He reveals He is fully God in that the tree withers immediately. They would nail Him to a tree, a tree expected to produce death, but that would instead actually would bear fruit, disciples who would make disciples, who would, eventually, produce followers of Jesus like us here and now.