Mark 11:21

Then Peter recalled what had occurred. “Look, Rabbi,” he exclaimed, “the fig-tree which you doomed is withered up!”


it is so much easier to remember
troubles than blessings
we are attuned to troubles
before we get to do no harm
we become proficient
in avoiding danger

sure enough we value predictions
of disaster far more highly
than a promise of fair sailing
our hearts need more training
than our so easily fooled head
courage more than paradigm

seeing how easily a curse
can spring forth
we fear in our heart
our next opportunity
to fail flat on our face
and hear never again


It could have been mentioned back at 11:14 that there is an additional way to translate the duration of the curse. Rather than set in eternal mode and in keeping with seasons, we might hear, “May no one ever eat fruit from you to the end of this age.” [Sabin2103]

This opens the possibility of a reversal as an introduction to a new age, a new good news. We will have to wait another two chapters to find if this is a better reading or not.

In the meantime, suffering and death has come to the fig tree and is still an expectation of Jesus about his own life’s arc.

See, the innocent get caught in non-justifiable actions. Just being at the wrong time and place where injustice comes so easily is all it takes. Followers of Black Lives Matter understand getting caught in the mechanics of an ever stricter legal system that sets all manner of profiling in motion. Then it was a fig tree and Jesus; now it is Black men in this season of The United States of America.

Worth worrying about here is the ever present specter of anti-Semitism. It is all to easy to jump from Jesus and a fig tree to Jesus condemning all Jews for all time. This really doesn’t comport with the healing Jesus does or the idea of good news for Israel and all. All too many have taken Peter’s words and twisted them into pogrom and genocide.

Though too short and gnarly, imagine that it is this fig tree that will eventually hold a suffering and dying Jesus. If this fig tree is a symbol of Rome, there is a certain irony that Jesus is withered on a withered tree—suffering and death for suffering and death.

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