Lessons From a Withered Fig Tree (Morning)
It has been a while since we have had one of Mark’s sandwiches but we encounter another one here. Mark likes to use this little literary equivalence of a sandwich. The bread is this two part story of the fig tree that surrounds the story of the cleansing of the temple which we will consider next week. This miracle story of the fig tree has bothered a lot of people over the centuries. It has invited untold interpretative abuse. Some people use it to suggest Jesus was mean-spirited and rash, killing a living thing out of frustration just because it didn’t provided what He wanted. Preachers and professors alike have wasted a lot of breath feeling sorry for that poor fig tree; they have waxed eloquently trying to defend that poor defenseless tree. It wasn’t fig season yet Jesus zaps it for not having any figs. The famous British philosopher Bertrand Russell took particular issue with Jesus’ “vindictive fury” for blaming a tree for not bearing fruit when it wasn’t the season for figs. This so tarnished the character of Jesus for him that in his book, Why I Am Not a Christian, he wrote “I cannot myself feel that either in the matter of wisdom or in the matter of virtue Christ stands quite as high as some other people known to history” (p. 17-19). People are quick to do that with God. People are often blaming God for being unfair or demanding that God give a reason for what He does or why He lets certain things happen. We are so incredibly arrogant and self-righteous putting God on the stand and making Him answer our questions. Where’s the humility, where’s the submission? But others both wiser and humbler have seen in this event a parable of what was about to happen in Israel. This fig tree becomes one of the most useful trees that ever grew, more useful in dying than in living. This morning a withered fig tree will be our teacher.