July 9

Text: Matthew 21:18-22

Now in the morning, when He returned to the city, He became hungry.  And seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it, and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He *said to it, "No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you." And at once the fig tree withered.  And seeing this, the disciples marveled, saying, "How did the fig tree wither at once?"  And Jesus answered and said to them, "Truly I say to you, if you have faith, and do not doubt, you shall not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' it shall happen.  And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive." (NASB)

This is one of the most puzzling and controversial actions of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew.  Why?  (1) It is a destructive act that makes no application.  (2) It seems “out of character” for an act of Jesus.

Notice the disciples did not ask, “Why did you do that?”  The “why” response is our response.  They asked, “How did you do this?”  That deserves thought!

Some think it is a parabolic action.  Jerusalem is the tree.  The absence of fruit was her failure to do godly deeds.  The consequence was there would be no future opportunity to be the source of godliness.

Consider another possibility.  Jesus was a temptable human (Matthew 4:1-11 and 16:23).  He did not wish to endure the suffering associated with his death (Matthew 26:39, 42, 44).  Yet, he long knew this death was in his future (Matthew 16:21).  The fig tree incident was a stress burden reaction of the human, Jesus, to circumstances he knew would happen, but he did not wish to endure.

That view has a downside.  It demands we reevaluate the religious significance of stress effects on humans.  When is stress temptation, and when is stress sin?  Is it “natural” to feel stress?

That view also has an upside.  Jesus did not vent his stress on people, but on a tree.

Your ability to relate to Jesus and know that he relates to you involves your ability to accept his humanity.

Suggestion for reflection: How do you relate to Jesus’ humanity?  (Read Hebrews 4:14-16.)

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