A WITHERED TREE
18 In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, 19 and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up.
20 The disciples were amazed when they saw this and asked, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?”
21 Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. 22 You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.”
Throughout Holy Week, Jesus’ home base was at the home of His good friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany, two miles east of Jerusalem on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. Each morning Jesus and the twelve made the beautiful two mile walk down from the Mount of Olives, through the Kidron Valley, and up into Jerusalem. On Tuesday morning during this journey, Jesus cursed a fig tree, and immediately it withered.
Surely this is one of the strangest stories in the Gospels. What did Jesus have against the poor fig tree? As you might expect, there’s more going on here than meets the eye. It’s no accident that the account of the fig tree immediately follows the confrontation at the temple. Just like the tree, the Jewish religious system looked good on the outside but was bearing no fruit. Why? Because it had become disconnected from its true purpose and source of life.
Later in the week, Jesus would say much more to the disciples about bearing fruit, but for now He wanted them to have this memorable object lesson. The withered tree is a lesson about what happens when we are disconnected from Christ, who is our true purpose and source of life. All outward signs of life dry up and our lives become “fruitless.” But Jesus wants to lead us in the opposite direction, toward life, vitality, hope, and meaning. As we follow Him, His fruit is produced in us. All we have to do is stay close and connected to Him.
Let’s pray this prayer together today:
Our Father, thank you for planting us on this earth for a purpose—to produce fruit that glorifies You and points others to Your goodness and love. You provide for us all that we need to grow: water for our thirst, food for our hunger, shelter from the elements, sunlight to brighten our souls. But Your greatest provision for us is Your Son, Jesus. You sent Him to reconnect us to You so we might fulfill Your grand design for our lives. Help us as we follow Him this week, through a difficult season where the very earth underneath us feels unstable. Plant our roots deep in Christ, so that the storm around us would only make us more fit to bear His fruit through our lives. Amen.
Find a nearby tree and cut a small branch from it. Make sure the branch has signs of life: green leaves or a budding flower. Now place the branch somewhere in your home where you will see it for the rest of the week. As you watch the branch change a little each day, let it remind you of your own desperate need for Jesus, your source of life and vitality.
4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the
vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
5 Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.
The material in this guide has been adapted from Fellowship Bible Church’s Holy Week 2020 resource: Following Jesus Through Holy Week.
All scripture quotes are from the New Living Translation.