” The Withered Fig Tree” Matthew 21: 18-20
“18 Early the next morning Jesus was returning to the city. He was hungry.19 Seeing a lone fig tree alongside the road, he approached it anticipating a breakfast of figs. When he got to the tree, there was nothing but fig leaves. He said, “No more figs from this tree-ever!” The fig tree withered on the spot, a dry stick.20 The disciples saw it happen. They rubbed their eyes, saying, “Did we really see this? A leafy tree one minute, a dry stick the next?”
From a distance the fig tree looked healthy and green, but up close it was fruitless. This scares the bajeebees out of me.
The appearance of success can create the same illusion. For the most part, I am sure I measure things exactly in this way. I cant help it. I have been taught to measure things this way from childhood on. Worse yet, I started to believe it about myself. ” I must be right, look at all this success ! ” Green leaves on a fruitless tree.
It’s a comb-over or a girdle … you the get the picture. Sellin’ one thing, delivering another. One commentary I read said “the story” with ” the fig tree drama” was about Israel and in part I am sure it was. But for me it’s about my own image management ( Gene’s P.R. firm ) and learning how to identify that same spirit in the culture I live in. Both the world’s culture and the church’s culture. Jesus was clearly addressing both.
The Shock ! The disciples were in awe and shock when the tree instantly withered. Green leaves one second…. whoosh.. dead, dry stick the next. I think Jesus was also dramatizing the judgement. A fore taste. When it happens, we will all be shocked.
We are the fig tree. From a distance we look pretty green and leafy. This is especially true if we have some worldly stuff to substantiate our claim. Add in some notoriety, physical attractiveness, an education and charisma. Boom .. your in. Everything is in place. You must have a fruitful tree.
There cant be a more dangerous misconception. The violent and instantaneous nature of ” the withering” is dramatic evidence of the outcome of depending on outward appearances as the validation of fruitfulness. This story is just one of many that warn us of making judgements based on outward appearances. It’s a very dangerous game.
Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.10 But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.”
Psalm 139: 23 Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about;24 See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong-then guide me on the road to eternal life.