For those that aren’t of the Christian faith, we are on day two of Holy week. Yesterday was palm Sunday, the day Jesus entered into Jerusalem on a humble workman’s donkey, fully aware of what the following days would hold for him and those following him.
On this Holy Monday, so many years ago… the humble, kind, compassionate son of God cursed a fig tree and flipped tables. He was angry at what a mockery we’ve made of our faith. The temple, which should have been used to commune with God was being used for individual profit. (I get his reaction there.)
The fig tree, on the other hand, made me pause. My first reaction? Jesus gets hangry like the best of us.
But of course it goes much deeper than that. Just as the temple gave the outward appearance of being a place of worship, it was full of selfish rot on the interior. The fig tree wasn’t quite in season yet, so understandably the figs weren’t ready to be harvested, scripture even notes this. (Mark 11:13) However, it is important to note why Jesus sought out the fig tree to begin with, fully aware it was too early for fruit. The fig trees lush foliage gave the appearance fruit would be present.
God met the tree, only to find an imposter. The same goes for the temple. The same went for every person who called themselves a follower of God and Jesus Christ, because they (and we) couldn’t hold up our end of the bargain.
Now the thought that keeps bouncing around in my head is that Jesus knew what was coming, and really so should have the people. Jesus’s anger that day is known to me. I grew up in the church and know the Easter story pretty well.
What I can’t seem to get over today is that it was all prophesied a number of times long, long before Jesus was born and he then continued to remind the people up unto his death. In fact he continued reminding us of God’s plans and promises after he rose again. Today we even have all of those promises written down for us in compact form so we have no excuse to forget, and yet we still do. Of course he was angry!
We can so easily boast about our faith around Easter, but your faith should not be tied only to the Easter story. Easter had to happen not only redeem us and save us from ourselves, but because we continued, (and still continue), to fall into the pit the world creates trying to bring forth satisfaction and happiness from anything but God. The key to all of that is right in front of us.
The Easter story is an important reminder, and I’d be willing to argue the most important reminder of the gift God has given us, but our faith must go beyond Easter. Easter is an example of the life we must live. God was working on us long before the cross and he’s still working today. Just as Jesus did before us, we must lose ourselves and carry our cross to follow the one who went before us. (Matthew 16:24-25) The only way to do that is to be willing to risk everything in pursuit of God himself.
Joy, hope, love, redemption, and peace were given to us despite our consistent failures when Jesus put himself upon that cross. We were given that knowledge from the beginning, then again and again and again. Yet somehow we still manage to forget it. You may appear to be a beautiful, faithful tree, but without fruit you are just another tree. When you enter the kingdom of heaven, will God recognize you and set you apart?
God planted us to bear fruit, and if we do not nurture our faith to become fruitful, we will wither away just as the cursed fig tree did before us.
The Easter story is not THE story. It doesn’t begin and end with Easter. It’s crucial yes, but part of a much grander narrative that we get to actually take part in. God knows your name. Jesus knew you on that cross. He knew who exactly who he was dying for. Take that gift and be fruitful so God can recognize the child he created to do incredible things in a world that is lost.
I challenge you to listen to the song below and remember who you are and who God called you to be. Then go turn your face to the sun and spend some time with God, even if its just a few minutes. You can thank him, worship him, talk to him, or just be quiet and sit with him. If you’re brave enough to share your experience, I invite you to do so.