Hangry? – Friday, 8th Week in ordinary time – Mark 11: 11-26
I have written a more detailed reflection based on the cleansing of the temple. You can source the same by clicking the link https://www.pottypadre.com/high-drama-in-the-temple/
Let us first situate the text in its context. Jesus has entered Jerusalem in Mark 11:1-10. He enters the temple, looks around at everything and realises that it is very late. Scripture does not elaborate what Jesus was looking for or why he decided to leave for Bethany. It simply tells us that he observes and decides for some reason not to speak or perform any act.
The next morning (Monday of Holy Week) he and his disciples pass a fig tree in leaf. Right away we need to understand that the first century reader, when reading this text, would have identified the nation of Israel as the fig tree; Israel had often been symbolised as a fig tree in Scripture; Isaiah 34:4, Jeremiah 24:1-8, Hosea 9:10, Luke 13:6-9.” So, what transpires next, is not Jesus throwing a star tantrum but Him making a point to Israel.
Yet, scripture also tells us that while the tree was in leaf, Jesus, ongoing to see if he would find anything (figs) found nothing but leaves. Scripture is also quick to tell us that it was not fig season. This makes the next words of Jesus even more puzzling for he says, “may no one ever eat fruit from you again.” We are also told in the same passage that twenty-four hours later, while passing this tree, Peter notices that it was withered away to its roots. So how do we explain this? How can the Lord expect fruit when clearly it was not the season for the fig tree to bear any fruit?
Remember that Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Passover. It is now late spring. At this point of time most fig trees have not developed mature fruit. Author Fred T Wright, in his book, Manners and Customs of Bible Lands, says this about fig trees. “The normal habit of the Palestinian fig tree is that fruit begins to form on the fig tree as soon as leaves appear. Leaves and fruit also disappear together. This particular tree draws Jesus’s attention because it already has a full covering of leaves. It’s an early bloomer. Its foliage signals that it should have early figs yet it had nothing.
This fig tree is a classic example of most advertisements; much hype and no substance. The fact that the leaves were out was a clear indication that fruit should have been on the tree; even if the fruit was not mature. Jesus is not simply angry because he was hungry; he was angry because this fig tree represented the nation of Israel. Israel had leaves and no fruit; in fact, scripture tells us that Our Lord found not one fruit. Israel had become a nation that had faked its fruitfulness with just leaves. Even more, Jesus comes to Jerusalem to celebrate the Paschal festivities, but finds the city and its leaders sterile, unable to welcome him; they who profess to desire him.
Today, Jesus is challenging us to bear fruit, and not just live in the nostalgic and glorious past where we once loved him, when we once bore fruit for him.
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