Tuesday Morning – The 12th of Nisan
Yesterday Christ drove the “corruption” out of the temple. Before that, something interesting happened on the way into Jerusalem. Jesus and his disciples walked by a fig tree in bloom, and Jesus cursed it.
13 And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.
Though the tree was in bloom it did not yet have fruit, and Jesus came searching for fruit in Israel. Bearing fruit is the very purpose for which Israel had been chosen. They were God’s fig tree.
As God says in Hosea 9:10,“Like grapes in the wilderness, I found Israel. Like the first fruit on the fig tree in its first season, I saw your fathers.”
When Israel was unfaithful, the Lord brought locusts and foreign nations against them. Speaking of this judgment, God says, “It has laid waste my vine and splintered my fig tree; it has stripped off their bark and thrown it down; their branches are made white.” (Joel 1:6-7)
God planted Israel as a fig tree in the land, and he was expecting fruit.
Jesus shared this parable earlier in his ministry:
“A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
The time for the fig tree to bear fruit has come to an end. So, yesterday Jesus cursed it.
This morning Christ and the disciples are returning to the temple by way of the Mt. of Olives, and Peter notices the tree has completely withered.
20 As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11
Peter is amazed by how quickly the tree has been reduced to nothing. However, instead of responding to Peter’s comment about the tree, Jesus addresses the spiritual reality the tree symbolizes. With the cursed tree as a backdrop, Jesus turns to his disciples and challenges them to rise up where their ancestors have failed. He says, “Have faith in God.”
The reason Israel was cursed and rejected by God was due to their lack of faith. They had the Law of God, but the Law had been reduced to a checklist of traditions. They were zealous for God but their zeal was not according to knowldege. They pursued a righteousness that was by works and not by faith. As Paul says, “Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works.” (Romans 9)
The Old Testament Law calls men to live in holiness just as God is holy. This requirement extends all the way to the thoughts and the intentions of the heart. The Old Testament Laws dealing with the heart are found in Deuteronmy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (6:5) you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. (19:18)
Jesus will describe these commandments as the most important later today while teaching in the temple. When asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Jesus replies, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
The foundation of the Law is to perfectly love God with all of your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and then to love your neighbor as yourself. Anyone who falls short of this is destined for the same fate as the fig tree.
But we have all fallen short of this, for “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
However, in three days God will make him who knew no sin to become sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthias 5:21) On Friday, Christ will redeem us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. (Galatians 3:13)
When it comes to loving God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, every man falls short. But the Law was given as a tutor to lead us to Christ. Therefore, “Have faith in God!”
In John 6 the crowds ask Jesus, “What must we do to do the work God requires?” Jesus answers, “The work of God is this, to believe in the one he has sent.”
A time is coming when Christ’s work will be finished. In regard to that time, God says, “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36:27) Have faith, for on that day we will have freedom to love God with all of our heart.