Day 20 (Thursday) - Matthew 21:12-22

Artwork by George Courage

Artwork by George Courage

Jesus sees a fig tree. But there’s no fruit on it. Leaves usually appeared after the fruit had blossomed, but this fig tree has apparently let Jesus down. And he lets it know.

May you never bear fruit again.

Sounds harsh, Jesus. So let’s back up to understand it. 

Jesus was on his way back to the city, and what was at the center of the city? 

The temple was. 

The fig tree was significant because it was a symbol of Jewish spiritual leadership and authority, the mascot of the temple. It was the tripod in the middle of the square, the town hall, a reminder of who was in charge and who would stay in charge.  

Unless, of course, someone came along to change the course of history.

Because there was here a bit of a history behind this story.  In the days of yore, Mighty King David had decided to capture the land of Jebusites - also known as Jerusalem - to transform into his capital.  Pick up some change-of-address forms on your way out, Jebusites.  

But the Jebusites were so confident that David could never conquer their city, which was situated on a rocky ridge and quite easily defendable, that they taunted him, saying even the blind and lame could ward him off.  

But David had some tricks up his sleeve and he attacked them through their water shaft, conquering the city, staking his flag, and declaring his capital.  Oh, and since conquering them wasn't quite enough, he endeavored to obliterate their mocking from his memory: 

No blind and lame allowed.  

A thousand years later, a new King is on his way, a new King who just before the episode with the fig tree has been sought out in the same capital by the blind and the lame and he'd welcomed them and healed them right there in the temple, in the heart of the city King David had exiled them from.

Hosannah, Son of David!  

Quite a statement.  

It was the gate to the Kingdom extended for those who had always been kept out, a welcome for those who had always been excluded, all their paradigms turned upside down. 

Jesus heads out to Bethany for the night.  The next morning, he heads back to the city where he's going to declare that the religious Jewish establishment is no longer king, and on the way in, he curses a fig tree - the symbol of the religious Jewish establishment.  It wasn't that the temple itself was wrong.  In fact, the temple had been given by God along with the sacrificial system as a way to connect the Israelites to him in worship.  But in his actions, Jesus declares that something has gone profoundly wrong with it.  The "brigands" Jesus mentioned earlier referred to those who were so insistent on justice for Israel that they were about ready to take matters into their own hands and force a violent revolution.  

May you never bear fruit again, he says to the brigands, the temple, the religious Jewish elites, the fig tree.  

The fig tree hears and withers, because even the fig trees obey him.

Jesus heals the blind and lame.  He puts a halt on the sacrificial system and says that whatever you're looking for in the temple, you can find in him instead.  He curses the fig tree.  He condemns violent uprising en route.  He came looking for fruit but when he found none, he declared the temple worthless and shriveled, judged for its corruption, for no longer serving its intended purposes. 

And that’s how it happened, that just outside the capital, Jesus burned the flag.

It was the revolution no one had imagined.  How did he do it, shrivel up this fig tree, the disciples wonder?  And so he goes on to tell them, that this same power which he shared before, that gave them authority to cast out demons and heal every disease and sickness, this is the power that can overtake the authorities that have turned away from God, even when those authorities are Religious Elites, or supposed to be.

The Religious Elites are not amused as the charismatic prophet from Galilee goes on to produce the fruit that they never would. 

Pastor Brynn Harrington

Consider:

We are to be the Body of Christ here on earth, representing His Kingdom as its ambassadors. We are to be a living Fig Tree in the temple of the Earth, representing who is in charge and who stays in charge. How much fruit does your tree produce these days? What matrix are you using to gauge?

Pray:

Pray through Galatians 5:22-23. Ask the Lord to reveal which fruit is succulent and ready for harvesting and what fruit is stunted and in need of some cultivation.

Embody:

There are nine fruits of the spirit. Today, try eating 9 different types of fruit as a reminder how sweet and filling these fruits can be. Suggestions include: Banana, Peach, Kiwi, Strawberry, Raspberry, Blueberry, Blackberry, Apple, Bartlett Pear, Asian Pear, Navel Orange, Grapefruit, Mango and Pineapple, among others.

Pastor Aaron Engler


Endnotes: 

  1. Bell, Rob. "Poets, Prophets, Preachers." 
  2. 2 Kings 5:6-10.
  3. Wright, N.T. Matthew for Everyone.