Monday, April 14, 2014
Monday of Holy Week: Cursing of the Fruitless Fig Tree
Well, Jesus never did anything without a point. So the question is, what was He trying to teach the apostles then and us now?
The fig tree episode appears between Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem where he "went into the temple precincts [and]...inspected everything there" and the cleansing of the temple the next day when he drives out the money lenders and merchants telling them they've made His Father's house a "den of thieves." Note during the cleansing of the temple that Jesus "began to teach them." These two teaching episodes emphasize the kingship and authority of Jesus. He and the Father are one. The temple is His to cleanse and protect.
Between these two scenes we have the fig tree event. It is Monday of Holy Week. Being hungry gives Jesus a reason to approach the fig tree and, finding no fruit, He curses it. "Never again shall anyone eat of your fruit!" He says. But Christ's purpose is more than about looking for fruit. He is teaching the apostles an important truth which Mark emphasizes by saying, "His disciples heard all this."
So what was He teaching? The fig tree in Hebrew Scriptures represents the nation of Israel. The prophets compare faithful Israel to a fruitful vine or a basket of delicious figs. What Jesus is showing His apostles is that the nation and the temple, instead of being a source of sanctification, have become nothing but empty show where lengthened phylacteries and scrupulous attention to the law represent the showy green leaves on the fruitless fig tree. Actually, finding figs would have prevented His teaching point. And, remember, when they return the next day, they find the tree withered "to its roots." Wow! What a lesson for us. We had better be faithful, fruitful servants! We don't want to hear the Master saying, "Tear down this useless tree. Why should it litter up the garden?" Let us pray for grace to persevere and always conform ourselves to the will of God. May Jesus Christ be prainsed!