We’ve skipped over Palm Sunday because there is a lot that happens during Holy Week that we usually miss.
Jesus curses the fig tree and the disciples’ only questions is “how did he do that?” Really? After everything they’ve seen, heard and experienced, that’s their question?
Where’s the mercy? Why didn’t Jesus heal the tree?
Jesus had just come into Jerusalem and had his outburst at the temple. The people of the Covenant were not bearing fruit. Being the people of God had become a religion rather than an identity.
What fruit do you bear? Is it evident to others that you are a follower of Jesus?
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” – Matthew 7:15-20
People often give me the hairy eyeball when I say that sarcastic Jesus seems more authentic and a lot more fun than the serious, philosopher Jesus that I think we often imagine, and this passage is the perfect example.
When you think of Jesus’s voice in your head, does he sound like a weird cross between Gandhi and Mr. Rogers, with a hit of the first minister you remember and a good British accent to give him the right amount of plausibility? I think we forget that Jesus was young and on an urgent mission. I like to imagine Jesus played by a thirty something Humphrey Bogart. Not especially remarkable looking, or eloquent, there’s a hint of sarcasm about him especially when dealing with the arrogant; he’s humble and respectful but always gets the last word in.
After Jesus gives his somewhat smart aleck response, he tells a story which is a continuation of the previous conversation about John’s identity. More importantly, it’s a conversation about recognizing God’s work and what the kingdom requires.
The tax collectors and prostitutes were entering the kingdom ahead of the good religious people.
What does the Father ask of you?
It’s easy to see that this parable was intended to call out the Jewish leadership, the pharisees, the priest and the ruling class who believed they had ownership of God’s kingdom; in the Old Testament, their predecessors abused the prophets, and this was the day after Palm Sunday – these leaders were going to kill the Son.
As the leadership continued to reject Jesus, His message spread among the peasants. Within a few generations, the Church would quickly shift from the Jews to the Gentiles.
Consider church history over the last two millennia, the movement has shifted hands over and again as successive generations have believed that they inherited the church from their parents, instead of realizing that they (we) are only sharecroppers.
The Church belongs to God. It exists to make disciples of Jesus Christ who go out and make more disciples, thus transforming the world. Imagine what the world would look like if every person was earnestly seeking to be more like Jesus.
When we forget that, we stop producing fruit for God’s Kingdom (disciples); instead we produce our own fruit (usually some kind of Christian Consumer or Group Member) who we want to keep for ourselves. When we forget who we work for, God moves on and finds other people to work for Him.