Cursing the Fig

A reading for Monday, August 17, 2015: Mark 11:12-26.

It's a stranger story. Jesus curses a fig tree, seemingly out of hunger. “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” It would not make sense to us if it were not for the very next story that comes in Mark's gospel. Jesus enters the Temple and overturns the tables and refuses to allow anyone to enter.

These two stories are meant to be read together. At the beginning, Jesus has just left Bethany. Why would the author tell us where Jesus was coming from? Bethany is the poverty part of Jerusalem. It's the wrong side of the tracks, the neighborhood where all the least in power and wealth live. This is where Jesus chooses to stay when he is in the great city of Jerusalem.

The Temple is the wealthy part of the city. The priests are well off in the ancient world. Archeologists have discovered an elevated sidewalk from the best homes in the city to the Temple, so the priests would not have to mix with the common people clamoring to get in to make sacrifice. Much money was made in this way, and much of it was coming from those that lived in places like Bethany.

So Jesus is angry with such a system in the name of God that would exploit the poor and give privilege to a few. His reference to the fig tree is simply a curse on these in the Temple that stand in judgment by God for such a exploitive system.

The goodness of such a story for us is the opportunity to evaluate our systems of economics and religion and to realign them with the gospel. Are we doing better? Do the poor have access to our houses of worship and our systems of economics? Jesus would demand that all be given the grace he earned for the world and all people...

Jesus said, "Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."


Popular Posts