Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

Hunger Just Makes You Grumpy

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Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry.  Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves.  Then he said to it, “may you never bear fruit again!”  Immediately the tree withered.  When the disciples saw this, they were amazed.  “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.    Matthew 21:18

I was pondering this scripture today for some reason.  Well, really, the reason is I was working in my yard today and I found the perfect spot to plant a fig tree.  When I thought about planting a fig tree it made me think about this scripture.  As I was thinking about it I remembered teaching a Sunday School class about it, and I remembered what I said during that class.  I spiritualized it ’cause that’s what you do when you’re  teaching a Sunday School class, right?  I remembered a few days before seeing a fig tree that looked worse for wear.  And I said to that class full of adults, “Just like Jesus cursed this fig tree, that tree may as well have been dead.  What good is a tree that won’t bear fruit?  As Christians, we’re the same.  If we aren’t bearing fruit for the Kingdom we may as well be dead.”  Wow…sounds really good, doesn’t it?   Just typing that now makes me queasy.

The thing is, I’d never really compared that scripture with this one:

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry.  Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit.  When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs.  Then he said to the tree, “may no one ever eat fruit from you again.”  And his disciples heard him say it.     Mark 11:12-14

 Then Jesus clears the temple then they went out of the city and spent the night….

In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots.  Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look!  The fig tree you cursed has withered!”

                                                                                                   Mark 11:20-21

Now for the time being I’m ignoring everything else that’s a problem with these verses, like the fact that one has the tree withering immediately and the other has it overnight.  No, for now I want to focus on something else that occurred to me today when I was doing my thinking.  Riding around long enough to mow five acres gives you plenty of time to think. 🙂   It was out of season for figs to begin with.  Why would Jesus expect there to be figs on a tree when it wasn’t the season for figs? Isn’t he God?  Doesn’t he know when figs are in season?  Why has this thought not occurred to me before?  Furthermore if Jesus was hungry, instead of killing the tree, why didn’t He just make figs grow on the tree out of season?  That would have been way more impressive.  Figs appearing immediately on a tree that only moments before had no figs on it, and out of season to boot.

Maybe it’s just me but it seems a little like cursing and killing the fig tree smacks of just being grumpy because he was hungry.  “I’ll show you not to have figs when I’m hungry, take that!”  I thought any anger besides righteous anger was a sin. 

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8 thoughts on “Hunger Just Makes You Grumpy

  1. I've always heard this is a prophetic act in which second-temple Judaism, found wanting, is cursed and set on a course to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Something about parallel passages in the OT prophets that signify the same thing.

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  2. This is one of those really odd-ball verses, no doubt. You left off my favorite part, though. In both the Mark and Matthew versions, Jesus follows it up by telling His disciples that they could make fig trees wither too, and do even more wonderful miracles, if they only have a little faith and ask for it in prayer! Ha!Cursing the tree does sound grumpy. In fact, miracle aside, the whole story here seems a little odd.There are skeptics who believe that the story of the life of Jesus actually started out as a collection of legends, allegories, and parables which was never meant to be taken literally. Yet over time, the fictional understanding was lost, and this Jesus character started to be thought of as having been a real person.I can't fully subscribe to that theory, but passages like these certainly lend some credibility to such a theory. The events are baffling if taken literally, but, as you point out, if taken purely from a spiritual teaching perspective, they can provide a useful illustration.

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  3. SteveJ,I've never heard that before. What church do/did you attend? I find that very interesting. In fact, I'm finding a whole lot of passages much more interesting when not taken in a literal sense. It's just that my whole experience has been grounded in literalism. TWF,I left those parts out intentionally because it would've taken the focus away from my purpose. But you're right. It also says they can throw a mountain into the sea if they don't doubt. I guess no one's had that kind of faith – ever.

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  4. SteveJ,By church I'm meaning denomination. Many of the ideas and concepts proposed through my blog commenters are pretty foreign, though ultimately interesting. While I may not subscribe to them, I'd like to explore them further.

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  5. Well, it may have been that he wasn't hungry, so much as he may have been constipated. *grin* And if one is in fact, truly constipated, a little anger is probably justified. *pensive grin*… Zoe ~

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  6. I suppose you could be right, Zoe. I hadn't thought about the writers embellishing the story to cover a bit of gastrointestinal difficulty. That would be justification for withering just about anything that got in between him and relief! 😛

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  7. D'Ma, I've been through all different kinds of traditions: Roman Catholic, Baptist, pop-evangelical, Calvinist, Anabaptist, Unitarian, Episcopal. I think I've heard that particular interpretation from the better evangelical theologians, like N.T. Wright.

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  8. SteveJ,By church I'm meaning denomination. Many of the ideas and concepts proposed through my blog commenters are pretty foreign, though ultimately interesting. While I may not subscribe to them, I'd like to explore them further.

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