‘Seeing a fig tree by the road, [Jesus] 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.’
This little pericope throws Jesus in rather harsh light. He seems capricious. While the fig tree is not made in God’s image, it is alive and Jesus the prince of life. It gives one pause.
But then I was out pruning in my yard this morning. I was giving careful attention to cutting back a diseased apple tree. It has fire blight and with each snip of the shears, I washed them with gasoline to prevent the spread of the disease. The final product is neither comely nor likely to survive, so severely did I need to hack away at it. At another time, it might have pained, for more than a few cuts brought down branches showing green beneath the bark. But it had to be done. I had purposed that in this manner I might increase its fruitfulness.
Now why would I find this work so necessary in my yard and yet be filled with apprehension when Jesus did it? Yes, it surely did not benefit the fig. But was not His purpose even higher? That of instructing His disciples and generations of His followers afterward?
I have been studying Genesis lately and an interesting consensus is emerging in modern scholarship regarding the description of the Garden of Eden. It is the whole world. Particularly, the naming of the headwaters within it point to the impossibility of this garden occupying one locale. Rather God is creator of this garden world and the master gardener within it. So I suppose He ought to do as He sees fit.
So let’s do exactly what Jesus was instructing His disciples here: trust. Trust that the master gardener is shaping us and our world into what He desires. And let us come to Him, asking in faith, knowing that fig trees can be withered, mountains can be moved and hearts of stone be turned to flesh.
Lord, prune my heart.