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When Jesus was in his week that concluded with his murder by the Romans upon the instigation of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin, two incidents happened that make me think about the importance of working with correct premises.  The two incident are Jesus’ act of interrupting the activity of the Jerusalem Temple (commonly referred to as Jesus cleansing the Temple), and Jesus cursing a fig tree.  The incidents are recorded in the New Testament books of Mark (11.12-25) and Matthew (21. 12-22).

It is not uncommon that some people criticize Jesus for  “cursing a poor, innocent fig tree” and causing it to dry up.  It is said that Jesus was taking out His anger and frustration on a fig tree that had done nothing bad or negative toward Jesus.  Such criticism is based on a false assumption, the assumption that Jesus causing the tree to dry up was an immoral act directed toward something that did not deserve such treatment.  The critics miss what was really happening.  The significant action was Jesus cleansing the Temple.  Cursing the fig tree was complementary to the Temple incident.

Only twenty four hours before the fig tree incident and the cleansing of the Temple, anyone seeing either the fig tree or the Temple would have thought both were vital and functioning according to their God ordained purpose.  The Temple authorities, which included the Sanhedrin, would not have judged the Temple and its activities as fallacious or as immoral.  Rather, they would have said that both they and the Temple were fulfilling their God ordained function.  The Temple authorities would never have opined that both they and the Temple needed to be replaced by something else.   They would have said that any such attempt to replace the Temple and/or the Sanhedrin would have been condemned by God, the One who stood behind both the Temple and the Sanhedrin.

On the other hand, according to Jesus the Temple in reality was intended to be a pointer toward Jesus.  It was Jesus who would make communion, fellowship, and relationship with God a reality.  If the Temple had been a person under the guidance of Father God, it would have been proclaiming the legitimacy of Jesus; it would have been pointing to Jesus.

Jesus, as both a person and a “do-er” was greater than the Temple.  Jesus knew that, and He knew that He was the authority figure over the Temple.  He had the authority to decide whether the Temple, as it was functioning at that moment, should continue to exist or not.

That brings us to the cursing of the fig tree.  Keep in mind that Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple was not a spur of the moment, emotional, outburst.   Jesus knew that such action was needed and that eventually it would have to happen, and that the “now” moment had arrived.  Thus, when Jesus curses the fig tree, an event that both Matthew and Mark tie closely to the cleansing of the Temple event, His mind was on the Temple incident.  Both the fig tree and the Temple wee not fulfilling their deepest function – produce figs and point to Jesus.  By cursing the fig tree, Jesus was symbolically also cursing the Temple – declaring that both of them were faulty.   The key event was the cleansing of the Temple; the reinforcing event was the cursing of the fig tree.

In both events, the end came before most people would expect it.  At the time of Jesus, no one was thinking that within a generation the Roman general Titus would sack Jerusalem and destroy the Temple.  Likewise, when people walked by that particular fig tree, no one would have thought that within twenty four hours it would be dead.

So, we don’t condemn Jesus for cursing the fig tree.  We recognize that He was doing with the fig tree what people all over the world do with trees – they use them to fulfill a function determined by people.  That is what Jesus did that day with the fig tree.  It was not immoral or worthy of being condemned as an impetuous act by Jesus.

Let’s not fall into the trap of beginning with false premises.  Read the story of Jesus wisely.

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