Seems a bit harsh, doesn’t it? A fig tree is just going about its rightful business in the off season – growing leaves, storing energy, nutrients and so on, preparing to have fruit – then suddenly, for not producing an impromptu miracle, it is the subject of no small curse from the Creator of the Universe. Yet the patience of God is staggering, his mercy incomparable. So where is the patience of the Son of God, his mercy towards this hapless tree? OK, so Jesus was angry. Perhaps we underestimate the weight of humanity he was wrestling with here as God incarnate? Especially then, perhaps only days out from the cross. Did he already carry the weight of our sins? Our anger? Did he already know the forsaking of his Father which befell that instant of Jesus’ life for our sakes? Still, Jesus himself did not sin. So whatever motivated this pronouncement of doom for the fig, it was not wrong. But something was wrong. The Creator shows up at a fig tree looking for fruit, hungry belly and pleading heart looking to his Father, he ought to find fruit. Any time, any season, it should be there for him. Something was wrong, Jesus knew it. Someone was to blame. ‘Your Father! He’s let you down. Oh yes, its alright for those sinners, he heals every disease under the sun for them when they so much as touch the hem of your garment, he lays on loaves and fishes for thousands! But when you, his own son, needs a feed on the hardest day, its too much.’ That was one possibility. There were not too many other suspects. Just the tree. Very well then, Jesus decided, the tree it is. Jesus understood that his anger had to go somewhere. That is why he said to his disciples, ‘If they will not receive you, nor hear your words, when you leave that city, shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.’ Again, it does not sound too charitable. But that dust is bad stuff. Best not carry it around. Nonetheless a bad day for the tree! Its sap must have positively crystalized when Jesus spoke. By the next day it had withered away. Yet how else could it be? It would have been unthinkable for anyone else to get fruit from it in future. That is why Jesus said, ‘Let no fruit grow on thee henceforth forever’. To have fed Jesus would have been an ultimate good. To have failed to feed him was an epic event. But to then feed anyone else, having failed to feed God himself, would have been a disgrace. Yet all was not lost. Because for what is a fig tree born? Is it not to make known its Creator? To satisfy him, yes. But by what is he more satisfied, than that he should be revealed in that very tree? And so it was. To this day the tree, though withered away, ‘stands’ as a testimony and a teaching about God, and a commemoration of the temptations of Jesus. Indeed the fig tree was fulfilled. And so perhaps it will stand again, barren of fruit, full of beauty, beside a river of life, in the light of one Son of God, in a world to come.
So Jesus is on his way into town – Jerusalem that is – its early and he hasn’t had breakfast. Or lunch or dinner the day before. That’s not uncommon for Jesus, he’s used to roughing it on the road, food comes when and where you find it. Still its not often you read that he was hungry, like this morning. I’m picking he had a rough night, rougher than usual. His time is up, he knows that. That’s why he’s here – to finish it. Still, now the final scene is here, it just feels empty. Something is not right. Judas? Well that was always coming. There might still be a chance – but its hard to see how he will make it back from here. He’s had chances plenty already. Focus, get it right these next two days and its done, everything’s done. Play it right.. but that’s just it. They’re all playing to lose. I’m playing it for them, they don’t even see. Well, how was it meant to be anyway? Father? Hungry. Pulling up short, that’s what it is. I’m almost there and I’m pulling up short. Well that makes sense, I was always going to be home on empty. Ha! Figs!