Summary: Are you bearing fruit or just showing off?
Today is Palm Sunday. This is the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey while people laid palm branches in his path and shouted “Hosanna. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” This is the week that He will clear the temple, that his arrest will be plotted, and He will be crucified.
But in the midst of this week we find Jesus interacting with a fig tree in a rather curious and confusing way.
Let’s read Mark 11:12-14 The next morning as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. He noticed a fig tree in full leaf a little way off, so he went over to see if he could find any figs. But there were only leaves because it was too early in the season for fruit. Then Jesus said to the tree, “May no one ever eat your fruit again!” And the disciples heard him say it.
Farther down we read Mark 11:20-21 The next morning as they passed by the fig tree he had cursed, the disciples noticed it had withered from the roots up. Peter remembered what Jesus had said to the tree on the previous day and exclaimed, “Look, Rabbi! The fig tree you cursed has withered and died!”
Upon first reading this account it would seem that Jesus was being a bit cruel to a defenseless fig tree. The scripture says it was too early in the season for fruit but not for having leaves. So you must wonder why Jesus expected anything from the fig tree when He, being the Creator, certainly understood the DNA of his creation.
But upon farther investigation I discovered some interesting facts about these particular fig trees found in Palestine, the area where Jesus was. These fig trees produce crops of a small edible bud in March followed by budding leaves in April. This early green bud is common food for local peasants. And even though a fig tree may be in full bloom, an absence of these edible buds is an indication that this tree would be producing no fruit for the year.
So as Jesus and his disciples approached the fig tree they were expecting a meal. The tree was barren but from afar it seemed to be full of life. Jesus decided to teach a lesson to his disciples about the danger of appearance.
Let’s read 1Corinthians 10:1-11 (VS 9)
I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground. In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses. All of them ate the same spiritual food, and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ. Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, or worship idols as some of them did. As the Scriptures say, “The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.” And we must not engage in sexual immorality as some of them did, causing 23,000 of them to die in one day.