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The fig fiasco

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Van, Aug 29, 2013.

  1. Van

    Van Well-Known Member
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    Mar 4, 2011
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    When we engage in Bible Study we use methods and procedures that have been found useful in discerning the important messages the original authors intended. Things that are important are usually emphasized. Perhaps the author will spend a lot of time and provide many passages on the topic, or perhaps a long passage on the topic.

    And so, when we find the same or very similar accounts in three or all four gospels, that indicates that the subject was thought to be important by the gospel authors. Not surprisingly, most of the items that appear in three or all four gospels are from the last week of Christ’s life. These oft repeated and related accounts are important and should be carefully studied such that we gain an understanding of the key accounts in the Bible.

    And so it is not without some sadness that I bring the Fig Fiasco up for discussion. We find the figurative fig tree either as a narrative account, a living parable, or given as a parable in three of gospels, Matthew 21:18 – 22; Mark 11:12 – 24; and Luke 13:6 – 9.
    John the Baptist also relates a somewhat similar idea in Luke 3:9. So what is up with the fig tree?

    In Matthew the story is told in a straightforward manner, as is the parable given in Luke 13, but in Mark, a second account from the last week is sandwiched into the account, the Temple Tantrum.

    What are the main ideas of the parable and the “acted out parable?” Jesus was looking expectantly for something, but found it not. The fig tree had not produced as the owner had expected. The fig tree had withered rapidly, for when they noticed it had withered, apparently the next morning, they asked why had it withered at once. In the Luke 13 parable, a sentence is stayed for another year, but then comes judgment if no fruit is produced. What questions arise from the text? What does the Fig Tree symbolize? Are the two intertwined accounts in Mark related to the same message?

    And one more general observation before we turn to the passage specifics, Jesus used the power of His anointing in compassionate ways throughout all of the recorded signs and wonders of the gospels, except to send the pigs to their doom and here where Jesus uses His divine power to judge and condemn.

    Did Christ destroy bad figs, or the fig tree? Did Christ come to destroy Israel? What did Christ come to do away with? What does the fruitless fig tree represent in scripture. Always the same thing or is the fig tree used to illustrate different truths? Can we be led astray by assuming the fig tree always symbolizes the same idea?

    The orthodox view is that the fig tree represents Israel. I doubt it because Jesus did not come to curse or destroy Israel, but that is the widely accepted view. Certainly, in other passages, the Fig Tree is used to symbolize Israel, so the issue is, does Jesus use the fig tree for that purpose? And my answer is no.

    Next, another idea is presented that the fig tree represents the curse of the fall, which Jesus did indeed come to destroy. Two arguments are put forward in support of this idea, the fig leaves used to cloth the fallen, and the fig tree symbolizes the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because the effect upon mankind is overturned by Jesus. So while I do not believe that is the correct idea, I am convinced that it could be, it fits with all scripture that I am aware of.

    So in answer to the question, what did Jesus come to destroy, we have a correct answer "the curse of the Fall." But, just for fun, lets ask a follow-up question, did Jesus come to destroy anything else?

    Why did Jesus come expecting to find fruit when (Mark 11:13) it was not the season for figs? But rather than speculate that Jesus did not know the season when figs appeared and when they became ripe enough to be good food, lets just take it that in late winter/early spring - Easter time of March/April - fig trees have both leaves and unripe fruit. The fruit buds at the same time as the leaves appear. So rather than being ignorant of the growing season, Jesus could just be pointing out that this tree should have been bearing fruit, even though it was perhaps a little early to have ripe fruit. This fits with the whole story without accepting Jesus is either deceptive or ignorant. And if the symbol is a fruitless fig tree, rather than based on the fig tree's leaves, then that points away from the possible symbolism of the curse of the Fall.

    Jesus does use the fig tree as an indicator of the season and therefore conveys the idea that we can see signs of when the end will come, Matthew 24:32., but we are talking about a different reference, the one where Jesus cursed the fig tree. Thus it seems Jesus used the fig tree to convey more than one spiritual truth. So the issue here is what does Christ's curse of the fruitless fig tree symbolize?

    Did Jesus come to do away with the Old Covenant Temple System of worship for by that Law no flesh is justified? Had the Temple system "dried up," had the legalism of the Pharisees blocked people who had been on their way to entering the kingdom? Was it a den of robbers, robbing God's Law of compassion?

    Does the "lone" fig tree indicate the isolation from the Gentiles that existed? Does the Temple System produce Old Testament Saints now? Should the fig tree have been a house of prayer for ALL nations, or had the legalism reserved God's grace for a select group.

    Is it time to lay the ax upon the dried up roots of such thinking?