April 25, 2016

Why Did Christ Curse the Fig Tree?

By Archimandrite Vasilios Bakogiannis, Ph. D

In the Service of Matins for Great Monday (chanted in the evening of Palm Sunday), among other things, we hear in the Gospel reading as well as the hymns, about the miracle of the withered fig tree.

And we certainly ask ourselves: "What does this event have to do with Great Monday?" And of course it is relevant, because it took place on the Monday before the Passion.

Therefore, when Christ entered Jerusalem on this day (the previous night He had spent in Bethany, in the home of Lazarus), He became hungry along the way.

There on the public main road was a fig tree. He went close to it, looked for a fig, but only found leaves. Then He cursed it! (Mk. 11:12).

"May you never bear fruit again!" (Matt. 21:19). The result? "Immediately the fig tree withered" (Matt. 21:19). As the disciples watched they were shocked.

"Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked: 'How did the fig tree wither all at once?'" (Matt. 21:20).

Imagine a big green fig tree outside your home, and in no time before your eyes it withers!

Nothing "living" could be found on it, neither leaves nor blooming branches. Wouldn't this shock you?

Christ did not curse the fig tree out of "revenge", because it did not have a fig for Him to eat, but on the eve of His Passion He wanted to send a message to those who would call for His crucifixion, lest they awaken.

The fig tree was on a public road, and probably everyone knew about it. And with the holy days approaching hundreds of Jews would pass by it on their way to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.

And suddenly they would see the green fig tree they knew...withered! And they would be concerned!

And certainly they would say: "Until now Christ only gave blessings, but now we see He also gives curses! Just as He withered the fig tree, He can also 'wither' (punish) us, who are thinking about crucifying Him. Let us be careful, then."

But they were not careful! Not one bit: "Because it was not the season for figs," noted Mark the Evangelist (Mk. 11:13).

Christ knew it was not yet the season for figs. Yet in such an "inappropriate" time, He looked for figs on the fig tree! Christ!

By this action He wanted to teach all of His servants, who believe in Him, that we should not behave like the fig tree, which only bears fruit once a year, and the rest of the year is without fruit and even without leaves.

We should be different from the fig tree. Our thoughts, our feelings, our actions, our works, everything should point to Christ, and we should always bear fruit, not only towards the end of our lives or just once a year, for example, during Holy Week.

Because we do not know the time of our death! And then what? "Every tree that does not bear good fruit, is cut down and thrown into the fire" (Matt. 3:10).

"Let us fear the curse, brethren, of the withered fig tree for its fruitlessness, bringing to Christ fruits worthy of repentance, Who grants us the great mercy" (Matins of Great Monday).

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.