Clearly something significant is brewing. Yes, the crowds shouting at Jesus “Save us! Now!” the day before is a huge new development. And clearly Jesus isn’t passive, because it was His order to go get the donkey, His disciples that began the shouts of Hosanna, His defense of this adoration in the face of challenge. Tension with the religious leaders is clearly ratcheting up, as it now includes a plot to murder the recently-resurrected Lazarus. Jesus is an ever-greater threat to their grip on control and He keeps pouring fuel on the fire.
But before the next confrontation in the Temple- which will be a dramatic and public table-turning and house-cleaning- Jesus does something odd. He curses a tree. Seriously. Just walks up to a green-leafed fig tree, hoping to find something to eat. But apparently it wasn’t fig season and Jesus is left hungry and disappointed. So He curses the tree! What is this? A bad mood? Hangry? Seems so random of Jesus, doesn’t it?
But pause with Jesus here a moment. Consider the context. What we see is a tree that looks lush and healthy on the surface but fails at it’s actual purpose: producing fruit. Jesus has inspected the tree, found it wanting, and declared judgment. A metaphor, of course, for what He is doing with the nation of Israel, particularly the religious leaders. No matter how “good” they look on the surface, they are not bearing the kind of “fruit” God desires. Not increasing in love for God and others, especially those who are “other”. And Jesus has spoken this warning, this invitation and command often- from the Sermon on the Mount onward, throughout His ministry. His example, His teaching, even direct confrontations- nothing has landed with them.
So today, let’s linger with Jesus next to the fig tree. The tree/nation has been inspected and found wanting. In a few short days, Jesus will once again tell His disciples- and us- to remain intimately connected to Him so that we will bear fruit— much fruit. Only Jesus can produce the results. Our part is to stay connected.
What would it be like to ask Jesus to “inspect’ your life today? Not as an act of condemnation or guilt-inducement, but as an invitation to draw near to Him. To look below the surface and outward appearances. What kind of fruit is Jesus producing in my life these days? Greater love for Him, for others? In what ways is He wanting to draw me closer?