Holy Monday- What Does Jesus Find?
Often, on Holy Monday, we remember the account of Jesus cursing the fig tree. I must admit it is a scene in the gospels which puzzled me for a long time. I thought it was a bit heavy-handed, over the top you might say. Needless to say, many people skeptical of the claims of Jesus have leapt on this account in the past- claiming it shows he was prone to a short temper and could lose the plot a bit! I shared in my sermon yesterday from Zechariah 9, how on the contrary, Jesus never does anything without careful consideration. So much of His life is a perfectly planned fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies. Here, Jesus is drawing on a well known Old Testament metaphor, where God's chosen people are represented as a fig tree. It is spring time, and as such this tree should be offering edible figs among its leaves. Jesus finds none, and it turns out the cluster of leaves are but a foil, giving the appearance of a fruit bearing tree, where there is none. This is actually a parable of what is to come. Jesus curses the tree, to foreshadow what will happen in Israel. The people who have Gods law, who should have full hearts of faith and expectation, are dead on the inside. The land is filled with hypocrisy, and so God will give another people the chance to know him, the kingdom will be given to another.
The fig tree incident is a powerful visual lesson about hypocrisy. Holy Week is a good time to reflect on this. That God isn't pleased in anyway with an outward show, if the heart is cold, dead and barren. I was reminded of this last night, watching our faithful and gracious monarch address the nation in an unprecedented peace-time broadcast. Her Majesty addressed our nation with the characteristic poise, sombreness and resoluteness we have come to expect. She shared once again about her own increased time for and devotion to prayer, as a silver lining amidst the dark Coronavirus cloud. HM is not perfect, and is human like the rest of us. But it was clear, whatever our views on her and the Royal Family more broadly, hypocrisy is not a word that could be fairly associated with her. She spoke with the integrity that has characterised her reign. I have come to expect this of our queen, but what I wasn't exactly prepared for were the floods of tributes pouring in from all over the globe on social media. Americans, who fervently resist the idea of monarchy- moved to tears by the solmemn address. British republicans, who have no time for the Royal Family, with a lump in their throats. In the recent past, I have lamented that social media has alas become too often a tool of bitterness and division, especially when politics is involved. Last night, I was deeply moved watching this response. It was as if all that was put on hold for a brief moment, as a woman of great character had the right tone and message to make us lay down our hostility and unite, for a brief moment. Why do I share this? I felt as though I was able to see a living example of good fig tree! I felt the challenge, entering Holy Week, to live a good life- where people can clearly know I belong to Jesus from my words and actions. Most of all, it caused me to ask, if Jesus were to walk up and inspect my life like a fig tree, would he find fruit? Holy Week is a good time to inspect this. And also, to have hope that by God's grace, bearing that fruit is possible, and can change the world we live in for the better.