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So you’re a fig tree, and one day you’re just minding your own business being a fig tree in the off season, when Jesus comes along and curses you for not bearing figs, even though it is not the season. And so you whither up and die.
I’m not here to explain away why this could have actually happened. I know there are evangelical biblical scholars who assert that it was the season for what the Arabs call taqsh… small little buds that the fig tree produces and which fall off before the figs come in. Passersby could snack on these. But Jesus noticed there weren’t any taqsh, so that mean there would be no figs, which meant the tree was barren, which justified Jesus cursing the tree.
So in this cartoon the fig tree says, “Okay figs… look lively!” Jesus is coming followed by his disciples. Scary! Who knows what he’s going to do! Should I have figs? Should I not have figs? I don’t know. He cursed my brother because he didn’t have figs OUT of season. Is he going to curse me because I have figs IN season? What should I do? How should I be? Is Jesus going to bless me? Or is Jesus going to curse me? I don’t know! Oh God, here he comes!
I put this story of Jesus in the gospels in the weird category. Odd. It is only in Mark and Matthew. It is a strange event, out of character it seems for Jesus. Scholars guess at what it means. Many claim Jesus did this just to prove his divinity and authority over nature. Meh.
The point I want to make is that many people have this same fear in the church and its ministers and members and message. We talk a lot of grace. But we all know that we can be treated very unpredictably. Grace talkers make excellent abusers. Love preachers can be awesome manipulators. One day we can be basking in the church’s favor and the next kicked out on our figs. How many times has “Jesus cleared out the temple” and “Jesus cursed the fig tree” been used on me? On you? Interesting fact: both of these stories happen very close to each other in the accounts. Hm.
I believe this is the bottom line: Grace does not kill. Love does not curse. We can rely on that.