Where’s the Fruit?

I’ll be preaching this Sunday (July 17th) from Matthew 21:18-22,  known as the “cursing of the fig tree”

The only negative miracle in the New Testament, this act by Jesus seems out of character.  I know I get cranky when I get hungry, but this is Jesus. He is not supposed to curse a fig tree simply because it annoyed him.

As I studied this morning I came across some really good insights into this passage and will be sharing some of the questions, that came to mind about this story, this week.

Today, I want to focus on the context & the symbolism of this “curse”  This passage is shared with us immediately after Jesus cleansed the temple, so Jesus is likely thinking about that encounter. We also know that when Matthew uses the term for fruit here (17 times in the Gospel) he never means it literally. The word is always used ethically as in productivity – bearing fruit – doing something from your faith. So it looks like Jesus is using the fig tree as a symbol of the Temple/ the people of Israel.

The fig tree has the appearance of fruit, but does not bear any fruit at all. (hold onto this thought for a minute)

We also find several occasions in the Old Testament ( Micah 7:1, Hosea 9:16 & others) where the prophets reference the fig tree with the fruitlessness of Israel.

Jesus, it seems, is not annoyed at the fig tree at all, but rather he is angry at the People of Israel (like many of the OT prophets) for their lack of fruitfulness. They may play the part (rituals in the Temple, etc) but they are barren when it comes to the fruit of righteousness and justice that God desires.

God’s children (you and I are included in this) must produce that for which we were created -to carry out God’s will, which  means entering into a relationship with God and then demonstrating fruit from that relationship in our life.

So here are the questions:

1) What fruit are we supposed to bear as a result of our relationship with God?  (Hint: See Galatians 5:22)

2) If we compare the church to the People of Israel, how do you think the church is unfruitful?

3) Why do you think that Jesus is angry about the lack of fruitfulness?  And what does that anger mean for us today?

I would love to hear your answers and thoughts on these questions.


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