Reliability in times of need

Text: Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but fund nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “may you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.” 

Scripture: Matthew 21:18-20

Reflection:  And your inspiration on this Tuesday of Holy Week in the midst of a pandemic is that Jesus hates figs trees. That’s just great. Really gets you through tough times, doesn’t it? Nothing like a withering fig tree to make you feel the love of God. 

This story has intrigued me for years. It takes place on Tuesday of Holy Week. The day before, Monday, Jesus had turned over tables in the temple. Those tables were used to swindle and cheat people out of money in order to line the pockets of the wealthy and all in the name of God. Jesus could hold it in no longer and went on a fit of righteous anger. It’s a great scene. I suppose we shouldn’t be all too surprised that the next day follows with a story of strange behavior; cursing a fig tree. 

What’s the deal, was Jesus just hangry? Is this a story to show us his humanity; that even the Son of God gets grumpy when he’s hungry? As it always goes with scripture, there’s something deeper at work. The disciples see this fig tree whither and are amazed, asking Jesus how it died so quickly. Jesus replies to them with strange words: “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:21-22). He says nothing about the tree, nothing about why he cursed it. He basically says, have faith, believe, and pray. I find his response unhelpful honestly. I have always believed doubt is part of the faith journey and my own doubt has brought me closer, not further from God. I don’t believe doubt is the same as not producing figs. So what is with this fig tree on this Tuesday of Holy Week? 

Maybe, Jesus has more righteous anger spilling over from Monday that would help give us wisdom. Maybe he’s looking at the tree, which has one job in a time of need, and the tree chooses then, when it’s needed most to not deliver. As disciples, perhaps we should look on and instead of asking, wow, how did that tree die so quickly, we ask: what is our one job to do right now and are we doing it? Who is expecting us to be there at a time they need it most and have we done all we can do be the one they can depend on? 

Or maybe Jesus was just hangry. You pray on it, see how God works in your spirit through this strange fig tree story on this Tuesday of Holy Week. 

Focus: Reliability in times of need

Prayer: God, help us engage with Jesus on this Holy Week and walk with him through the journey he made. Help us to be reliable witnesses and disciples in a time when people need it most. Amen. 

Author: Darcy Crain