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The Cursing of the Fig Tree

Now in the morning as they returned to the city, Jesus was hungry.  He saw a  fig   tree  by the way, and went to it, but found nothing but leaves.  So Jesus said to the tree, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the  fig   tree  withered away. (Matthew 21:18-19, KJV)

Many  people are deeply troubled by Jesus' cursing of  the fig tree. How could a gentle, loving Savior be so  vindictive?

Now undoubtedly Jesus used the fig tree as an example for our benefit.  We can understand the severity of Jesus'  treatment of the fig tree in light of the gravity His warning.  However, what about the fig tree itself?  Didn't Jesus also love the fig tree?  Is it fair that we obtain benefit at the fig tree's expense,  even if it is "just" a fig tree?  Or is the fig tree merely an object for Him to use at whim,  a "vessel doomed to destruction"  through no fault of its own?

Jesus did not curse the tree lightly, in a fit of pique. He did not treat the tree as something valueless, to be disposed of at whim.  God cares tenderly for  all of His creation, whether man or beast, animal or vegetable -- for John 3:16 says, "God so loved the WORLD", and even the trees and stones praise Him (Isaiah 55:12, Luke 19:40). In fact, Jesus spoke more in sorrow than in anger, as when  He prophesied the doom of Jerusalem. (Luke 13:33-34)

Clearly the tree itself was blameless, for it was not yet the season for figs (Mark 11:13). In fact, the curse Jesus spoke over the innocent fig tree was the same curse which He undeservedly bore on His own body, and the same curse which His martyrs throughout the ages  have willingly borne for the sake of His name. Only through the death of the guiltless may the guilty be saved from death: for as the apostle Paul said,  "We who  live are alway delivered unto  death  for Jesus' sake, that the  life  also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.  So then  death  worketh in  us , but  life  in you. (2 Cor. 4:11-12)

The premature tree is an appropriate representation of Israel.  When the Lord came, the people of Israel  had no fruit.  It was indeed impossible for them to have fruit, for the season of righteousness is brought on by the death of Jesus.  But the tree means more than this: it represents Jesus Himself.  For He too died without fruit, as Isaiah prophesied: "Who can speak of His descendants?  For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of My people He was stricken" (Isaiah 53:8, NIV).  So the cursed tree speaks not just of Israel, but also of Christ's sufferings, and the sufferings of those who follow Him.  For only through His death, and by our dying with Him, may we reach maturity, bear fruit, fulfill our life's calling, and enter into perfect joy.

When we rise again with our new, glorified bodies, could it be that we shall find that some glorified form of this same fig tree occupying a place of honor in God's eternal kingdom?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, apart from Your death we too are trees without fruit.  Thank You for bearing upon Your own body the curse which we deserve.  Teach us to die daily to ourselves, for "If we died with Him, we shall also live with Him" (2 Timothy 2:11).

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Copyright © 2001 CrossPollen
Last Revised: June 1, 2001

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