It Looks Like a Fig Tree #BigRead12 @pamjweb

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We were once in France during one of the farmers strikes that regularly used to happen.  We had to get from right down on the south coast in Frejus, to Calais to catch a ferry.  We had allowed a spare day to do the journey, because we had every intention of spending a day in Paris on the way back.  In order to keep getting round the blockades, we had to take many detours, including turning round and heading the wrong way back up the motorway…, and eventually ended up having to take minor roads in a most circuitous route!  By the time we got to the forest round Fountainebleau, the only things we had left to eat in the car were strawberry milkshake and cereal – well we’d intended to get food in Paris too!  France is not like England for finding food to eat, certainly not twenty years ago, once you’re off the main road, it is difficult to track some down.  We kept seeing signs to little food shacks, but none of them was open.  Perhaps two adults with two toddlers in their car should have been more responsible, but you live and learn.  Anyway, the upshot was we were hungry, and could find nothing to eat.  We had assumed we would find somewhere to eat, there was even the promise of signs to food, but there was nothing there for us.  Nothing, nowhere and no one could supply us with our needs.

In today’s reading in Tom Wright’s Lent for Everyone, Jesus is looking for figs.

Jesus Puts a Curse on a Fig Tree

12When Jesus and his disciples left Bethany the next morning, he was hungry. 13From a distance Jesus saw a fig tree covered with leaves, and he went to see if there were any figs on the tree. But there were not any, because it wasn’t the season for figs. 14So Jesus said to the tree, “Never again will anyone eat fruit from this tree!” The disciples heard him say this.

Jesus in the Temple

15After Jesus and his disciples reached Jerusalem, he went into the temple and began chasing out everyone who was selling and buying. He turned over the tables of the moneychangers and the benches of those who were selling doves. 16Jesus would not let anyone carry things through the temple. 17Then he taught the people and said, “The Scriptures say, `My house should be called a place of worship for all nations.’ But you have made it a place where robbers hide!”

18The chief priests and the teachers of the Law of Moses heard what Jesus said, and they started looking for a way to kill him. They were afraid of him, because the crowds were completely amazed at his teaching.

19That evening, Jesus and the disciples went outside the city.

A Lesson from the Fig Tree

20As the disciples walked past the fig tree the next morning, they noticed that it was completely dried up, roots and all. 21Peter remembered what Jesus had said to the tree. Then Peter said, “Teacher, look! The tree you put a curse on has dried up.”

22Jesus told his disciples:

Have faith in God! 23If you have faith in God and don’t doubt, you can tell this mountain to get up and jump into the sea, and it will. 24Everything you ask for in prayer will be yours, if you only have faith.

25-26Whenever you stand up to pray, you must forgive what others have done to you. Then your Father in heaven will forgive your sins.

Was Jesus hungry, was he wanting a fig to eat?  Or was it a more horticultural interest – seeing how the tree was coming along, what was the crop going to be like?  He was hoping to find some fruit, but he was disappointed.

This is another of those weird stories.  The passage tells us that it wasn’t the season for figs, so why was Jesus so upset that there weren’t any?  It seems quite unreasonable.  But was he perhaps looking for the beginnings of the fruit.  Presumably if the leaves were on then there should have been some sign of the fruit.

I take this as what my Local Preacher’s tutor used to call “enacted prophecy”.  An action that shows something that God is going to do.  Jesus curses the fig tree for not bearing fruit, for being just leaves – all show and no substance.  He is looking for growth, for the promise of fruit, and he sees none – so the tree has no use and is condemned.  A tree that isn’t fulfilling its potential has no use and has to go.

I think Jesus’ message, as ever, is for those who are watching him closely:  Are you producing fruit?  Are you all show and no substance?  Are you doing what you are here for?

He goes into the Temple – somewhere that is meant to be a place of prayer, and it has been turned into a ‘brigands’ den’.  The fig tree looks like a fig tree, but is producing no figs.  The Temple looks like a house of prayer, but is anything but.  We are left to join the dots.

About pamjweb

I'm a Methodist Minister, currently unable to work because of chronic illness. I love trying to work out what God's word means for us today - and coffee and cake. Social media gives me the opportunity to still have a voice, and interact with the world