Tag Archives: Fig Tree

Fulfilled: Holy Monday

Read Isaiah 1:1-20

“Then Jesus asked them, ‘Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures? The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing, and it is wonderful to see‘” (Matthew 21:42; cf. Psalm 118:22-23).

When we read the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus saw himself as a savior of his people. We can see how he he lived, how he taught, and how he ultimately took on the role of God’s suffering servant. We see that he claimed not only to be a teacher or a prophet, but that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. What’s more, Jesus claimed to be one with, and the same as, God Almighty, the great I AM.

His disciples not only believed, but were transformed by their relationship with Jesus and, in turn they helped tranform the world. Jesus’ views were not only his own, but ones steeped in his Jewish beliefs and his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Each day this week, let us look at the prophetic connection between Jesus and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.

004-fig-treeHoly Monday. On Monday morning, following Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his cleansing of the Temple, Jesus begins his journey back into Jerusalem. In the evenings, during Holy Week, Jesus and his disciples did not stay within the city, but stayed in the village of Bethany (presumably with his friends Lazarus, Martha and Mary). Bethany is a mere mile and a half to the east of Jerusalem.

Holy Monday, though most people don’t really pay it much mind, was going to be busy day for Jesus. He was further going to push the religious leaders (the Sadducees/priests and the Pharisees/teachers of religious law), the Herodians and all those who had lost their way from God. On his way into the city, Jesus discovered a fig tree that had leaves, but did not bear fruit. Fig trees in that region, evidently, begin to bear fruit before they begin to sprout leaves. With that said, it was not the season for figs to be growing on the tree.

When Jesus saw the tree he cursed it for not bearing fruit. The disciples noticed that the fig had withered immediately upon Jesus cursing it. This action was symbolic of the religious and political leadership (of which the ancient world did not separate) in Jerusalem. They all had leaves so to speak. They looked the part and acted the part, but they were bearing absolutely no fruit. In fact, worse than that, they were bearing all of the WRONG fruit. Jesus’ action of cursing the tree was also a message to his disciples. The time for fruitlessness had passed, the time for God’s Kingdom had come. There was much work to be done. Bear fruit. Little did they know at the time, but the risen and ascended Jesus would send an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on them at Pentecost to help them accomplish just that.

In the Old Testament, we see the prophet Isaiah, as well as other prophets, calling out the religious and political leaders of their day. Through Isaiah, God denounced them, “Even an ox knows its owner, and a donkey recognizes its master’s care—but Israel doesn’t know its Master. My people don’t recognize My care for them. Oh, what a sinful nation they are—loaded down with a burden of guilt. They are evil people, corrupt children who have rejected the LORD. They have despised the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him.” (Isaiah 1:3-4 NLT)

In Jeremiah, the prophet scolded the King Jehoiakim of Judah when he proclaimed for the LORD, “’But a beautiful cedar palace does not make a great king! Your father, Josiah, also had plenty to eat and drink. But he was just and right in all his dealings. That is why God blessed him. He gave justice and help to the poor and needy, and everything went well for him. Isn’t that what it means to know Me?’ says the LORD. ‘But you! You have eyes only for greed and dishonesty! You murder the innocent, oppress the poor, and reign ruthlessly’” (Jeremiah 22:15-17 NLT).

Jesus not only carried on the prophetic tradition of holding the leaders accountable; rather, he was the fulfillment of the visions of the prophets who proceeded him. Christ’s coming was both a judgment on the world order, and a way to salvation for all who chose to heed God and follow God’s only son, who was himself was the incarnation of God. Immanuel. On that Holy Monday nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus held the leaders accountable. He pointed them to their hypocrisy and pronounced that their rejection of him was their rejection of God. As a result of their choosing to reject the cornerstone of God’s kingdom, Jesus Christ, God’s Holy Spirit had passed them by and left them desolate, just like the fig tree.

The time has come to bear fruit. The church is now in the same position of the leaders in Jesus’ day. We have a choice to accept Christ’s call on our lives and to bear fruit, or to continue on in complacency and ignore the very cornerstone of the Kingdom God is building. If we do the latter, the Holy Spirit will move on to those who will open their hearts to the presence and working of God. Let us not end up like the fig tree. Let us, rather, through the power of the Holy Spirit, witness to the fulfillment of God’s covenant and the coming of God’s Kingdom through Jesus Christ.

The tree that produces little to no fruit is a dying tree.

Lord, prune the dead branches in my life so that I may continue to produce vibrant, hearty fruit for your Kingdom. Amen.

SON OF GOD: Holy Monday

Read Mark 11:12-14, 20-22

“He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’” (Matthew 13:31-32 NRSV)

fig_tree2Have you ever been in an apple orchard, or in a strawberry field, or in a garden and really desire to eat the food you come upon? One of my favorite things to do is to eat the fruit fresh from the tree. I get hungry walking through the orchards and the fields and, for whatever reason, the fruit tastes so much more fresh and desirable when freshly picked. There is nothing like it.

I can only imagine that Jesus, heading in to Jerusalem on that Monday morning nearly 2,000 years ago would have felt the same way as he passed that fig tree. The only difference is that, as he was passing, the fig tree was not in season to grow fruit. It only had leaves on it. Jesus surely knew this and understood it, yet when he arrived at the tree he cursed it upon the sight of it not having fruit. Odd, right? His disciples must have thought so.

Then this Jesus headed into Jerusalem, and went straight to the Temple. It is there that he began teaching against the religious establishment of his time period. You see, Jesus felt that they had become more focused on upholding their power and status, rather than being servants of the people. Rather than leading the people closer to God, Jesus felt the establishment was crushing the very people it was meant to serve. Jesus did not parse words as he levied the indictment of those who stood to gain from the establishment. On the way out of Jerusalem on the morning after that long and tense day, the disciples had noticed that the tree had withered and they remembered the curse Jesus had pronounced against the tree.

The tree is a symbol, a metaphor, and it represents the religious establishment and all of those who would claim to be God’s. When God comes, when God shows looking for fruit, we had better be bearing some. There are no excuses that will fly. We cannot claim to be out of season, or unaware of the coming of the Lord. Rather, we are called to ALWAYS be bearing fruit and we are not only called to bear fruit for some…but for ALL!

The question for us, as it was for those in Jesus’ day, is this: are we bearing fruit, or are we just a tall trunk with leaves? Are our branches far reaching, do they reach out to all who are in need of the fruit they bear, or are short and sparce? Are we like the great tree that grew from the mustard seed that shelters all of the birds of the air in its shade? Or are we a tree that shelters only the few and privileged? The Son of God wants us to bear fruit. The Son of God is calling us to recognize that all are children of God and all are chosen to receive the fruit of God’s love…the fruit of God’s hope, healing and wholeness. All we need to do is to root ourselves in God’s unfailing love and grow.

“A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” – Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 7:18-19 NRSV)

Lord, produce in me a clean heart. Prune away the dead branches and nurture me into a strong tree that produces much fruit for your Kingdom of hope, healing, wholeness, love, peace, justice, compassion, mercy, and humility. Amen.