Jesus and His disciples are on their way back to Jerusalem after spending the night in Bethany. It was about a two mile walk back to town. In Mark’s account, Jesus encounters the fig tree that we are going to be talking about for the first time on the morning that He also cleansed the temple. For us, that would have been yesterday. But Matthew records the fig tree incident on the next morning. Matthew is kind of famous for condensing events. Since we are going through Matthew right now, we will talk about the fig tree today. We will be bringing some information in from Mark though in our discussion.
The first thing I want to know is why was Jesus hungry? I would assume that the hostess of where they were staying would have prepared plenty for everyone to eat before they left for Jerusalem. Was Jesus busy ministering to people and missed breakfast? Was His stomach in knots about this week and it kept Him from eating that morning? I know I’m attributing emotions or feelings to Jesus that I would have in His situation. Many times in the bible Jesus tells His disciples not to worry, so I don’t believe Jesus was worrying about what was to come, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t weighing on Him. He knew what was coming and all that was required to ensure everything happened according to God’s plan. Was He preoccupied?
When Jesus sees the fig tree in the distance in full leaf He was apparently expecting to find something there to eat among the leaves. When I was Googling this story I visited one of my new favorite sites, Got Answers.com, and read their post about this story. In their post they talk about the fruit cycle of the fig tree. They say that the tree usually puts on fruit before it sprouts leaves. So seeing the leaves should indicate that there would be fruit too. Mark tells us though, that even though the tree had leaves it was still too early for figs.
Jesus approaches the tree and looks it over. There is nothing there but leaves. No figs what so ever. I realize there is more than likely a metaphorical and religious comparisons I could or should be making here, but I want to look at Jesus the man instead.
Jesus, for some reason, skipped breakfast or burned through what He ate so quickly that He is in need of food. He apparently isn’t carrying any food with Him on the way into Jerusalem. I don’t know if one of the disciples was bringing lunch with them or if they were planning to pick up something once they got to Jerusalem. But for now, Jesus sees this fig tree as an answer to His physical need for food.
Jesus is fully God, but He is also fully man. Jesus experienced emotions and physical needs just like the rest of us do. He often subjugated these needs, as seen when He was talking with the Samaritan woman at the well. In that story His disciples tried to get Him to eat but He refused. He said His food was doing the Father’s will. Today though, His physical needs are receiving His attention. On the emotional front, throughout Jesus’ time with His disciples we have seen Jesus exhibit compassion, pity, grief, joy, disappointment, anger, desire, anguish, determination and loneliness.
I believe Jesus was disappointed when He found the tree had no fruit. I also believe Jesus was feeling the pressure of all there was to do this week, including the final culminating act He was to perform. I’m not saying He was anxious, but I believe He was experiencing heaviness of heart. When He approached the fig tree and found nothing there, He spoke out of His heavy heart. “Nobody is ever going to eat from you again.” I don’t believe Jesus spoke out of anger or sadness, but out of disappointment.
I believe this was a “stress crack” moment. And it only lasted for a moment. It didn’t deter Jesus in His journey back to Jerusalem that morning. It might have helped fuel His righteous anger when He cleaned the temple once they arrived.
This moment wasn’t sin. It was my Lord in the flesh being real like us. “He had to be made like his brothers in every respect” (Hebrews 2:17). Jesus had REAL emotions, just like me. But unlike me, He didn’t let them lead Him into sin. He expressed His emotions appropriately.
Jesus’ moment was also used for a lesson. When Jesus cursed the fig tree He had unwavering conviction that the tree would respond to His words by doing exactly as He told it to do. Matthew has the tree withering right in front of the disciples’ eyes, but Mark explains that it was the next morning when Peter sees the fig tree withered. Jesus is now able to use this “stress crack moment” and turn it into a teaching moment.
Jesus talks about mountain moving faith with His disciples. “If you have faith and do not doubt… …whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith” (verses 21-22 condensed). Jesus was able to wither the fig tree because of His unwavering faith. He promises His disciples that if they have this kind of steadfast faith they will also be able to do mighty works.
If you have been following my posts for very long you know my history with the “faith” movement. Suffice it to say, I don’t have mountain moving faith and I also believe there are some conditions associated with the asking. I don’t believe God is required to answer our prayers exactly how we believe He should just because we had “faith” when we prayed. I believe God says “No” to some of our requests, even when we “ask in faith.” And I also believe that God is still in the miracle working business. I will continue to bring my requests to Him, whatever they may be, and trust Him to work out in my life, and those I am praying for, what His good and excellent plan is. THAT is what I have faith in.
Lord Jesus, thank You for Your willingness to keep walking the hard and heavy road all the way to the end. Thank You for Your examples of how to conduct myself even in the hardest times. I will never face what You did, but Your strength under pressure and Your steadfast determination are examples I want to emulate. Thank You for showing me even more clearly that You do know what it is like to walk in this life. I always accepted the scriptures testimony that You were tempted and tried, but I always left it in the wilderness. I never looked at the everyday trials before. Thank You for sharing them with me today. Thank You for showing me that there is a way through them without sin too. Hold my hand and my heart as I walk through my set of everyday trials God. Make me more like Jesus every day.
It was hard writing this because I believe You showed me Jesus’ human side, but I also wanted to make sure His God side shown through even stronger. I KNOW Jesus never sinned. I pray I showed the balance Jesus was required to live out in His life here on Earth. Fully God and capable of performing any miracle He chose to, while also fully man living within the limitations imposed on every other human being. Please forgive me God if I overstepped and ascribed to Jesus any emotional burdens He didn’t actually experience. I love You Lord and I NEVER want to write anything that would cause one of my brothers or sisters to see You in a untrue light.