May no one ever eat fruit from you again. Jesus in Mark 11:14
FULL DISCLOSURE: The English family runs a hospice for plants.
We can’t keep any kind of potted plant alive. Cactus are nervous in our house. If it wasn’t expressly forbidden in our neighborhood, I’d put a rock yard in. So Jesus cursing a fig tree and it withering the next day? It’s not the most impressive of his miracles. At least, in my book.
But then again maybe that wasn’t the point.
Here’s Jesus on his way into Jerusalem for his last Passover on earth and he picks out this fig tree that wasn’t even in season to produce fruit to curse it. Yes, the fig tree looked like it was season. It had flowers and buds but everyone knew it wasn’t the season for figs. That tree – no matter how it looked – was never going to produce a fig at this time of year.
Yet – Jesus curses it. Why? Did he hate figs?
It was a message. It was an object lesson. It wasn’t about trees, it was about people.
As Jesus deals with the religious leaders in the Temple all week, he was dealing with fig trees who looked great on the outside but were never going to bear fruit. He was being questioned and ambushed by people who were incredibly moral and spiritually empty and Jesus wants his disciples to know – that’s not what following Jesus is about.
The Pharisees and Sadducees were intellectually, theologically, and probably even morally superior to every person in the Temple area save for Jesus. They were seen as the top of the social system. Many people saw them as God’s representatives. The disciples grew up wanting to be like them.
But they were empty. They could not produce in their life what God wanted. What God wanted out them was a life of loving Him and others. A life that flowed out of a relationship with God, not one defined by rules. God wanted to see love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, joy, goodness, and self-control. But they were never going to produce that kind of life on their own, in their own strength.
For some of them, their own selfish kingdoms of power and influence were more important than following God. For others, they were more concerned about appearing good instead of being good. For all of them, Jesus was a huge obstacle, not the Way, Truth, or Life.
The lesson here is Jesus loves humility, loves brokenness. He hates arrogance and pretentiousness. If we set ourselves up as “producing fruit,” as holier than what we are, as ‘having it together’ but we don’t….we’ve set ourselves up for discipline from Jesus. If that goes on as a lifestyle – consider the cursed fig tree.
If a few days, Jesus is going to give these disciples the antidote to the cursed fig tree. He’s going to talk about staying connected to the Vine. He’s going to tell them – apart from Jesus they can do nothing but connected to Him they can do ALL things.
But standing in front of them, Jesus needed to make sure they recognized what it looked like to not be connected to the vine.