Monday, March 25, 2024

Easter Week - The Cursing of the Fig Tree Is Really About the End of the Temple


(Woman praying in Jerusalem)


This is Easter Week - the days leading up to Good Friday and the cross. After Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to the shouts of "Save us now!" ("Hosanna!"), he did some radical and revealing things in the city. One of them was His "cursing of the fig tree."


18 Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry.19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!”Immediately the tree withered. 
20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked. 
21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”


Jesus and his disciples are walking up Mount Zion, upon which Jerusalem is seated. On top of the mountain is the Temple. The Temple was in full view as they ascended. It's probable that the fig tree was higher up on the road, between Jesus and the Temple. As they walk to the Temple, Jesus see the fig tree ahead.

As He points to the fig tree, he is really pointing to the Temple. The barrenness of the fig tree is a visual analogy for the barrenness of the presence of God within the Temple. God is no longer showing up in the Temple. The religious leaders, instead of welcoming God's presence and introducing people to that presence, shut the door of heaven in people's faces and themeselves do not enter in. (
Matthew 23:13) Their "religion" was rule-based and filled with self-centered pride.  Nothing worse could be said of a religious leader; viz., that they do their religious thing and bar God from the activities.

In the case of the Temple, God himself exited. How sad and worthless this is, since what people need is God and His manifest "with-us" presence.

When Jesus curses the barren fig tree and talks about "this mountain" being thrown into the sea, he's not referring to just any mountain, but to Mount Zion. Some people talk about a faith that can move mountains and use this passage as an example, but Jesus was really talking about a new kind of faith that would exist 
without the Temple. The Temple, where God had showed up for hundreds of years, was going down, never to be inhabited by God again. The day was near when true worship will not happen on this mountain or any mountain. Thus, "this mountain" (Mt Zion) can be cast into the sea.

Later, as Jesus and his disciples are walking down Mount Zion from the Temple area, 
his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2 “Do you see all these things?” he asked.“Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (Matthew 24:1-2)

With the Temple now God-less, where will God manifest Himself? The answer, as the disciples will realize on the Day of Pentecost, is that the dwelling place of God will be 
in His people, both individually and corporately. The great, revolutionary new truth of Jesus in this story is that if you are a Jesus-follower then you are a temple of the presence of God. You are, as Richard Foster has written, a "portable sanctuary."

You host the presence of God.


1. Consider ways in which you will welcome God's presence in your life today, ways in which you will welcome his presence.