In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry.And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.
When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?”
- Matthew 21:18-20
In reading Matthew's account of the Triumphal Entry, it is clear that Jesus is in full command of every detail. His instructions to His disciples regarding the donkey not only show His own mastery of the situation but also that everything He's doing is in fulfillment of Scripture, specifically Zechariah 9:9.
Beyond the entry itself, the cries of the crowds, the clearing of the Temple, the opposition from Jerusalem's religious leadership - all are in full keeping with the purposes of Christ:
1. The cheering of the crowds ensured that Jesus' entry as the long-awaited Messiah was properly announced and praised.
2. The clearing of the Temple showed how Jesus was going to overthrow the corrupt, self-serving worship of the Jewish religious leaders and usher in an age of worship "in Spirit and in truth." (John 4:23-24)
3. The opposition of the religious leaders sets up the showdown that will lead Jesus to the cross and to our salvation.
But why the fig tree?
At first take, it doesn't seem to make any sense that Jesus would curse a fig tree for not having fruit when He was hungry. So, why did He do it?
To put it simply: The fig tree represents Jerusalem and the religion of the Temple: All show and no fruit. The fancy Temple, build by Herod, was one of the wonders of the ancient world. But the religion practiced in it was empty and lifeless. Jesus had come to replace the fruitless worship of the Temple with the true worship of God, made possible by His sacrifice on the cross.
In our spiritual lives, we need to be careful to avoid the curse of being like the fig tree - all full of flashy leaves and yet devoid of real fruit. In our private walks with Christ, in our family lives and in our churches, we need to make sure there is real substance, real fruit. For that, there's no substitute: We must have the gracious power of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer Based on Psalm 49:
Heavenly Father, You are good to me. You have been generous in so many ways. Yet too often, I look around me and get envious of those who have more money and better possessions than I do. I can grumble that I don't have a nicer house, more money for better vacations with my family, a newer car or just more of the things I see others enjoying.
But You tell me the truth:
Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me,those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches?Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life,for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice,that he should live on forever and never see the pit.
Material riches are of limited value. They certainly cannot purchase what matters more: redemption, forgiveness, eternal life. I know that those rich men who do not know You are really poor. "Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish."
Lord, grant me contentment and joy, satisfaction with Your good gifts. Most importantly, Lord, "But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for He will receive me." You have conquered sin and death and have rescued my soul. You will also raise my body glorious and eternal when Jesus comes again. Let me rest in my redemption and hope in my glorious future, secured by Christ. In His name I pray. Amen.