A couple of things of note happened on the Monday of Easter week. Jesus curses a fig tree (Matthew 21.18-19) and cleanses the temple (Mark 11.15-18). More on cleansing in a couple of days, let’s now read of the fig tree:
“Now early in the morning, as he returned to the city, he was hungry. After noticing a fig tree by the road he went to it, but found nothing on it except leaves. He said to it,
“Never again will there be fruit from you!”
And the fig tree withered at once.”
(Matthew 21.18-19, NET)
Reading this in our modern, non-agricultural and non-Jewish context might seem confusing, but to Matthew’s Jewish audience¹ there would have been a clearer connection.
The nation and family of God’s people was often referred to as a fig tree in the Old Testament. Here’s one example:
“When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the wilderness.
I viewed your ancestors like an early fig on a fig tree in its first season.
Then they came to Baal Peor and they dedicated themselves to shame—
they became as detestable as what they loved.”
(Hosea 9.10, NET)
I read recently that
“Jesus’s cursing of the fig tree symbolizes the judgment of God upon a nation that has the outward appearance of life but fails to bear fruit.”
The point for you and me as we move towards Easter is that as part of the most important week in the history of the world, as He moved inescapably towards the cross and the crux of His mission on earth (Mark 9.30-31, 1 Timothy 1.15a) Jesus specifically called out those who did not use well what they had been given, those who were showing no evidence of (yet claiming) belonging to the Kingdom of God.
Tomorrow we arrive at the point where Friday is coming into view, but as we approach Easter I would encourage you to pause and to ponder if you are showing that evidence. As a fig tree should have borne fruit, so too should the believer bear spiritual fruit (Galatians 5.22-26).
¹ – Matthew doesn’t write “Here’s the Good News of Jesus to all my Jewish friends“, but context shows us that he wanted his countrymen and fellow Jews to see Jesus as the Messiah (cf. Matthew 4.17 and the phrase ‘Kingdom of heaven‘ rather than ‘Kingdom of God‘ used more commonly by Luke and others).