August 29, 2006

Jesus Cursing the Fig Tree

Directly after the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, a very troubling text surfaces. Mark 11:12-25 and Matthew 21:18-22 tell the story of Jesus cursing a fig tree for not bearing fruit. There seems to be some debate whether or not the tree was in season to bear fig, but it seems plausible that it should have had something on it.

I've heard people accuse Jesus of being luny for this act of cursing a fig tree, just because it didn't bear fruit when it was supposed to. Obviously, at face value, this story is nonsensical.

The question that we should ask then is, "what significance, if any, does the fig tree carry in the Palestinian culture of Jesus' day?"

For the nation of Israel, the fig tree symbolized peace and security. Micah 4:4 and Zechariah

3:10 are good examples of how the fig tree signified rest for the nation. Also, the prophets would speak about the destruction of vines and fig tree to warn of hte impending judgement of God on the Israelites, see Jeremiah 5:17, Hosea 2:12, and Joel 1:7 and 12.

The fig tree became a national symbol of peace for the Jewish nation of Israel, so when Jesus cursed the fig tree, he was giving a great object lesson for the end of an era. No longer would Israel be in peace, rather because of such actions as turning God's house into a den of thieves Jesus was declaring that the nation of Israel would never bear fruit again.

A new era had begun. The Jesus movement. The inauguration of the Kingdom of God on earth, and instead of a priestly nation, God's chosen people were now to be his called out ones, Christ followers.

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