Faith of A Mustard Seed

Barbara Woods Washington

Barbara Woods-Washington,M. Div.

“May no fruit ever come from you again.” (Matt 21:19).  Next in the ‘pistis/faith’ occurrences is ‘The Cursing Of The Fig Tree’, a double tradition where Matthew (21:18-22) and Mark (11:12-26) report and Luke is silent.  In this faith event no one has approached Jesus for healing.

The fig tree’s importance in biblical history is no small affair.  Present in the Garden of Eden, this tree is mentioned by name in it’s provision of ‘material’ for the ‘first clothing’.  When the knowledge of good and evil came and nakedness was realized, Adam and Eve made for themselves ‘aprons of fig leaves’.  Known throughout Old Testament times as one of the most important fruits in the region, this tree is often referenced in conjunction with the vine.  A wealth of materials exist on the medicinal uses of the fig (as in II Kings 20:7 and Isaiah 38:21) where a cake of pressed figs’ is used as a ‘plaster for healing’.  Note must be taken of this tree’s unusual ability to bear fruit twice in a year— ‘early figs’ and ‘late figs’.  By New Testament times, this tree is a most common part of the scenery and is referenced metaphorically by the greatest of teachers.  Amazed, the disciples asked “how did the fig tree wither at once?”  “Faith!” Jesus says.

While the interpretation of this pericope varies widely, (specifically because many scholars see a textual problem— fruit on the fig tree at Passover season?…), it is clear to me that ‘pistis/faith’, as we have followed the occurrences of it’s word usage in New Testament, is for Jesus, dynamic in scope.

I am persuaded by Bornkamm’s ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ where in his section subtitled ‘Faith and Prayer’ he writes, “In the tradition of Jesus’ sayings faith is always linked with power and miracles.”  Hunzinger suggests that this faith event stands alone as a ‘miracle of judgement’ in the Gospels.  Others take the metaphorical ground and view the curse as symbolic of ‘unfruitful Israel’.

I am mindful of the fact that Jesus is experiencing ‘The Passion’ having just made his ‘Triumphant Entry’ into Jerusalem riding on a donkey and ‘weeping’ over a people who ‘would today know the things that make for peace!’  That even in the face of his imminent death he is again taking the teaching position for the benefit of his disciples.

What say you in this ‘2020 Nation’ where all eyes and minds are praying, not about a ‘Faith in God’, but on it’s Political Life?  Some say Fascism, some say Oligarchy, yet from others we hear the sounds of Kleptocracy.  All the while Anarchy appears, what with millions of The Demos now spending their lives in the streets across America choosing sides of hatred and discontent.  My neighbor spoke of a sign on a Truck which says: “armed and easily pissed”.  But, there can be no doubt of the chaos and confusion, ‘on fleek”… in the Land.

Among the many human emotions in the life of Jesus at this moment, he is hungry.  He sees a fig tree and approaching it realizes that the tree has no fruit.  The ‘fully man’ side places Jesus in the center of human nature.  He curses the tree!  He is hungry.  The tree’s fruit should satisfy the hunger, but it has no fruit.  What good is a fig tree with no figs to a hungry man??  He curses the tree!  If you cannot feed me when I’m hungry, you will never feed again.  He curses the tree while those standing by watch it wither— immediately!  “May no fruit ever come from you again.”

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