Friday, March 9, 2012

The Failed Fig Tree

Mat 21:18 Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. 19 And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. 20 And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!

The Giver of the Seasons and the Creator of the fig tree knew well that figs would not be present at this season. The leaves were in evidence, but the figs were not. Why, then, would the all-knowing Lord of the Harvest curse a barren fig tree? Doesn't this episode seem to go against the patient nature of the Lord? Indeed, some would ignorantly mock the Lord, charging Him with displaying a bit of a tantrum. But this is not at all the case.

Mark's gospel notes: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find anything thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. 11:13

Was Jesus expecting figs before their time? If so, why would this episode even be included in the narrative?

The answer is simple, especially if one understands fig trees.

My first date with a fig (pun intended) was in Baja, Mexico. The bush stood in between our sponsoring church’s building and the parsonage. I suppose it was my first taste of a fig apart from a Fig Newton cookie. The dense, fleshy, grainy and sweet fruit was both tasty and satisfying to this fig initiate. Since that day, the fig has held a special place in my heart and memory.

Jesus was beginning His week of "passion" (literally, with suffering). His energy would be tapped as at no other time, with the possible exception of His wilderness temptation. The nutrients offered by this plant were much needed, but unavailable.

The explanation: Fig trees first put forth their leaves, then a small knob appears. These little green figs are called taqsh and are full of flavor and sustenance. Peasants and others who are hungry make use of these little knobs to satisfy their need. The taqsh act as indicators of the fruit for that season. Eventually, they fall off the tree and are replaced by the young figs. If, in a season, there are no taqsh, there will be no figs and the tree will serve as useless that year.

Jesus merely disposed of a tree that was cumbering the ground for no purpose. But He did it as a sign for a people who craved signs.

Consider, if you will, that the fig tree represents Israel in type. The One Who came to save His people from their sins is about to be rejected by the fig tree. Therefore, no fruit will be indicated, rather, a curse will be pronounced upon it. "His blood be upon us and on our children." Mt 27:25

In cursing the barren fig tree, Jesus was indicating the barrenness of a nation meant to bear much enriching fruit, but would instead be scattered and persecuted for the next 2000 years. They would be blinded to Christ's gospel and, as a nation, would reject His Messiahship.

Christians are also expected to bring forth fruit. Let's make sure that when He comes seeking fruit, we will have produced better than Israel did. Don't quash your taqsh!

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