"Toomer's Corner," Courtesy of Jennifer Young Photography, Auburn, AL

He’s accused of killing the trees out of spite.

That makes him a pariah among Auburn fans. His alleged poisoning of the Toomer’s Corner oaks has resulted in the slow death of more than just landmarks; those hardwoods symbolize the university itself.

  • Just so, the fig tree personified Israel.

09-29-12 @ The Loupe Project, courtesy of iStockphoto

The fig tree was an Old Testament metaphor of Israel (Hosea 9:10; Nahum 3:12; Zechariah 3:10). God used the image of a fruitless fig tree as judgment against His people – as a peril of their going after false teaching. (Jeremiah 8:13)

Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise us that Jesus did just before He died. Matthew summarized the event:

Early in the morning, as He was returning to the city, He was hungry. Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He went up to it and found nothing on it except leaves. And He said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” At once the fig tree withered.

~ Matthew 21:18-19, HCSB

  • Fig trees bear fruit before the leaves come.

The presence of a tree laden with leaves should’ve meant that it was full of fruit as well, even though it was not the season for either. Foliage preaches fruit, but that’s not always the case.

  • The fruitless tree offered a false hope to weary travelers.

From a distance, the human eye can’t see the fruit among the leaves. The foliage conceals the green figs until they ripen at harvest time. When journeymen see such trees, they have hope of nourishment.

  • Only close inspection reveals the tree’s true nature.

Just like the false religious system of Jesus’ day, the tree failed in its purpose and in its promise for those who suffered spiritual hunger. The impressive tree was fruitless.

  • Jesus’ judgment was sure and swift.

To a tree-hugger, it might seem that the Lord needlessly condemned a tree. To have that opinion runs counter to the mercy He showed throughout His life and to the grace He shows to each of us every day we live.

  • Instead, He gave the tree over to its blight.

It was obvious that some affliction had already struck this tree since it bore no fruit despite being covered in leaves. The Lord’s curse affirmed what was the natural course of its diseased life.

That’s what He did with Pharaoh’s hardened heart; it’s what He still does with all unbelievers.

  • So it is with false religion.

Just coming to church won’t keep us from death. Being covered with leaves may look impressive to those we meet on life’s journey, but such false coverings fail to hide our sinfulness from God.

  • Adam and Eve tried to do just that with fig leaves.

The hypocrites of Jesus’ day followed their sinful parents’ lead. Many who claim to be Christians still do. But the Lord sees the bane of a sinful life no matter how religious people seem to be or claim to be.

  • Many such people will wear their Easter-best leaves on Sunday.

But the Lord sees whose lives are barren of His Spirit’s fruit. No fig leaf will cover spiritual deadness before Him. God’s judgment will surely come to all who refuse to repent.

But all is not doom, gloom, and no bloom for the repentant.

  • There is hope in the Tree of Life.

The One who had authority to curse the fig tree has the authority to save those who’ve been grafted into Him. He suffered the same fate in one day that the accursed tree did. But His death produced a great harvest, of which all who call upon His name can partake.

The cross (as His life-giving tree) will provide more than we need to complete life’s journey – no matter where life’s road takes us.

 

What fruit are we bearing before Christ today?