The Fig Tree
Since we are celebrating Palm Sunday this week, I thought it might be useful
to talk about Jesus' cursing of the fig tree, which follows directly on from the Triumphal Entry with palms and such. This is the story (Mark 11).
"On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he [Jesus] was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he
would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves
for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, 'May no one ever eat fruit
from you again.' And his disciples heard it."
After this they go into Jerusalem; Jesus goes to the Temple and throws out
the money-changers in the Court of the Gentiles. The following morning
"they passed by the fig tree withered away to its roots. Then Peter
remembered and said to him, 'Rabbi, look!' The fig tree that you cursed
is withered." The question, of course is, what's going on?
In answer, you have to know something about fig trees. If a fig tree is going
to produce figs in "the season for figs" it will produce little bitter "figlets"
out of season. If there are only leaves, the tree will bear no fruit in season.
This is an acted out parable about Israel (and the Church too). Israel was to
be a "light to the nations," pointing all peoples to the One True God. But they turned inward and never really fulfilled this mandate, though they thought
about it some because there was, after all, a provision - a court - for gentiles
who wanted to worship God. When Jesus went there, however, it was full of money changers getting rich off poor people (some things don't change).
For Jesus, the barren fig tree was Israel, given the promise and the potential,
but never bearing fruit. The presence of the money changers in place of
gentile prayers was proof enough that they were never going to get it.
The Church and churches must also stay promising, always looking outward
to the courts of the neighborhoods around us, welcoming would be worshippers of God into our midst with "little figs" of ideas, and new ways and a longing for hearts. Otherwise, we too will wither and die. Help make it different for us.