“The Paradox of a Fig-less Fig Tree”
“And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, ‘Let no fruit grow on you ever again.’ Immediately the fig tree withered away.”– Mattew 21:19
This is the only time in Jesus’ earthly ministry that He destroyed something. His ministry was one of restoration. He restored everything from the leper to the harlot. “He healed every disease and sickness.” But here He withers the fig tree because it had no fruit. Hmm…interesting to ponder.
The interesting thing is that Matthew recorded this incident just before three prominent parables concerning Israel. The first two we will read this morning; next week we will read the third.
From the start, God’s plan was to reveal Himself through Israel. But Israel [His own] rejected God’s prophets and now His Son. The Gospel, therefore, will start going out to the Gentiles. And that is the fundamental message of these parables. It is why Jesus rebuked the fig tree. It was a picture of Israel. They were a fig-less fig tree; there was no fruit. Therefore, they would become “withered” until the latter days.
Israel’s leaders had a form of religion but there was no spiritual fruit. The scribes and pharisees in Jesus’ day were a façade; there was no real relationship. And so, Jesus, through parables, communicated judgment upon the nation. “Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them.” [Matt 21:45] They perceived rightly!
You know that saying, “when the shoe fits wear it.” Well, they were wearing these very parabolic prophesies.
But the principle can be applied to our day as well. The Holy Spirit takes the message of God’s word and applies it personally to us. We must then make a decision. Do we receive that word and let it change our lives or do we let it go in one ear and out the other.
Parables are an interesting way to communicate, and Jesus used them masterfully to speak a strong word to Israel. The question, though, is were they willing to receive it? It is a similar question that we need to ask ourselves when God’s word penetrates our hearts.
Is God’s Word speaking to you today? If it is then allow the Spirit to minister to you; allow Him to mold and shape you, and change you. If the shoe fits, wear it; heed the message and receive it. And you will find that you have matured and drawn closer to your Lord.