So did Jesus have a temper tantrum when he made the fig tree to wither? We have all heard the story of when Jesus curses the fig tree after looking for fruit when he was hungry but found none on the tree. On the surface it appears that Jesus just had a temper tantrum about not finding food When he was hungry but that’s not the case at all. There is SO much to glean from that story and it turns out it wasn’t a temper tantrum but rather a very specific object lesson our Lord was giving to the Jews at the time and us today. You can find the story recorded in both Matthew 21: 18-22 and Mark 11: 12-13, 20-24.
The Jews in Jesus’ day would have understood the parable that the miracle portrayed. This event is both a miracle and a parable. The miracle is that Jesus cursed the fig tree and it directly withered. The parable is in what the whole scenario meant. See, in the Old Testament the fig tree was “often a metaphor for Israel and its standing before God” (ESV Study Bible) The Jews would have been very familiar with the passages from Joel, Amos, Hosea, and Jeremiah that speak of the fig tree being lush and green symbolizing God’s favor and prosperity as well as it being cut down and wiped out symbolizing punishment and discipline.
Common knowledge at that time was also that the fig tree would start setting fruit when it leafed out so a tree full of leaves should have at least some green figs. The tree Jesus was eyeing up for a meal did not, however.
Jesus was teaching a lesson and proving a point, not having a temper tantrum.
He just had made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and found the money changers in the temple. He proceeded to cleanse the temple of the wicked, godless practices going on there. After leaving the city, he came upon a tree that was a picture of perfection on the outside but sorely lacking in the inside. Under all those beautiful leaves there were no digs to be found.
This was an exact picture of what Jesus had found with the Jewish people, especially the religious leaders. They were just like the fig tree- they appeared to love the Lord and follow his way. They observed all the holidays, made the right sacrifices and preached the right things. But their lives did not produce fruit. Behind closed doors their hearts were not in the right place.
That’s why Jesus had to cleanse the temple and make one last object lesson. He was communicating to those who would listen that what’s on the outside doesn’t matter. Anyone can keep up appearances. Further, he made it clear that appearances only lead to death.
The timing of it makes it even more meaningful.
I didn’t realize this story took place between the Triumphal Entry and Christ’s death. After the three and a half years of ministry and all the teaching he did, one of his last miracles before his death was to communicate the importance of authenticity in the believer’s life.
The warning was to the Jewish people of his day but it is also so a very relevant warning to us believers today. As we approach Easter, let’s take some time to really reflect on our own lives. Ultimately, Christ’s death and resurrection on Easter Sunday made it possible for us to be authentic in our faith. His death gave the answer to the last miracle.
What a thought and what a Savior we serve!!