They couldn’t believe it. The tree was dead. Like shriveled, brown and broken dead. Just yesterday it had been as healthy as could be – well except for the lack of figs that is. Jesus had wanted something to eat, and He had gone to the tree – something He had done so many times before. Only this time, there weren’t apparently any figs, just the leaves; and He was none too happy about it.
“May no fruit ever come from you again!” He had yelled. All of them heard it. Things were getting out of hand, and weirder by the day. First He had them stealing donkeys. Then He was screaming and flipping tables. Yesterday He had ranted about the destruction of the temple – and today raging at a fig tree. Surely something was about to happen. There must be more going on then they could see or understand. But what was it? Why had He all the sudden seemed to lose His mind?
“Remind me not to cross Him” Judas had scoffed sarcastically, weakly masking the doubts that were circling in his head. “If that’s how He’s treating trees now, I’d hate to see what He’d do to one of us.”
A few of them had laughed uncomfortably – but the truth is they were all feeling it. The fear, the doubt, the dread. For so long they had trusted Him with everything – and now they weren’t sure they could trust Him with anything. Was He who they thought He was – or was He just another fraud? Was He really going to be their king – or was disaster coming just ahead. Just a few days ago they were certain. Now no one knew for sure. And like that fig tree they now stood staring at, it stopped them dead in their tracks.
“It’s completely dead.” Andrew whispered loudly to Peter as they stood in disbelief. “He’s never done anything like that before – Peter, WHAT is going on?!?”
Even though they thought He couldn’t, or perhaps more wished He wouldn’t – Jesus heard their words and felt their fears. And when He did, if only for a few moments, He remembered what it must be like to “just” be them. And so, He decided to explain. Or at least He tried;
“Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
~ Luke 21:29–33 (ESV)
This must be good news, right? “The kingdom of God is near.” He had to be saying that soon, and very soon, all the things they had planned and long for were going to be coming to pass. He would take His place upon a throne, and the world would never be the same. That just HAD to be it.
But why did He keep talking about dying and things passing away? It was unsettling to say the least. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not.” Was HE going to die? Were THEY going to die? They didn’t care about words – they cared about what – what was going to happen? And when?
So many questions. So few answers. So much confusion. So little calm. Things were getting contentious now. There was infighting and accusations. This rag tag team of nobodies was beginning to feel a pressure that until now had been foreign. It was here, it was real, and it was tangible – and it was ripping them apart. That’s what seems to happen when fear comes -from a fig tree.