By Doug Cox
“And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, let no fruit grow on you ever again. Immediately the fig tree withered away.” Matthew 21:19
Easter as many know it, is now in the past, but is it out of mind? If it is, that tells you something about your faith. Before Jesus went to the cross, He rode a donkey into Jerusalem while people declared Him to be their Messiah and hopefully, a conquering king. When He got into Jerusalem it seems though He took a wrong turn.
Instead of going to Herod’s palace and using His God given power to put him and the Roman government out Jesus beelined straight to the Temple to expose the corrupt religious leaders. Jesus overturned the tables of the moneychangers and overthrew the seats of those who sold doves. He even brandished a whip. Yikes! Doesn’t He know that is no way to win friends? That day, Jesus made the wrong people mad because immediately the cancel culture of their day started making plans to get rid of this noncompliant insurrectionist.
Later as evening came upon Palm Sunday Jesus left Jerusalem and went to Bethany to spend the night only to get up the next day and head right back to Jerusalem. On the way in, He saw a fig tree and went to it because, well, He was hungry. God in human flesh got hungry too. The problem was the fig tree had no flowers but no figs.
A strange feature about fig trees is they bring forth their figs before the flowers. That’s why Jesus went to the tree in the first place. Flowers were an advertisement that the tree had figs. But because they were not there, Jesus cursed the tree and it withered from the roots and so not to waste any effort He then used the tree as a lesson about faith and prayer for His disciples.
It seems though, hidden away in this fig tree story was a deeper meaning, an announcement about Israel’s (symbolized in the Old Testament with the fig tree) future. The problem was for a long time Israel bore no fruit. They went through the motions of following God but bore no fruit. So, in the last stages of His ministry, Jesus began confronting its leaders. He called them hypocrites, whitewashed sepulchers full of death, vessels washed on the outside but dirty on the inside.
We get the picture. They were flowers with no fruit. So, the question is, was the cursed fig tree a parable of things to come? If not, it is an eerie coincidence that around 30ish years later, in 70 AD, the Roman general Titus destroyed the city of Jerusalem and its Temple leaving the Jewish people without a national identity (at least for 2000 years).
What does any of this have to do with us? Well, the Lord is still expecting His people to bring forth fruit. Paul prayed for the Philippian church to have abounding love, knowledge and discernment, and to be sincere and without offense until the day of Christ. And for them to “be filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:11 What’s the point? Jesus saves men from sin then brings forth change into their lives. Change that can be noticed. Change that brings glory to God. For a blessed future Jesus wants from His people fruit not just flowers.