Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Not giving a fig: #EasterLIVE

I’ve been enjoying following and taking part in EasterLIVE, a Twitter stream telling the story of Easter through the eyes of different characters. My main character is a pub landlord called Benny who has hired out his upper room to a group of Galileans for a party on Thursday night. However, I became rather side tracked yesterday and found myself reflecting on the experience of a fig tree.

On Monday of Holy Week Jesus and the disciples head from Bethany towards Jerusalem and the Temple. This is what happens according to Mark 11:
12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree,“May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.
The story continues the next morning as Jesus and the disciples again return to Jerusalem:
20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
In order to understand the story we need to recognise the literary structure that Mark frequently uses in his gospel. Mark often pairs incidents together so that they interpret each other in what can be called a framing technique. The narrative begins with Incident A, Incident B then takes place and finally Incident A continues and concludes. In Mark 11 the fig tree is Incident A and what takes place in between the beginning and conclusion of the story is Incident B Jesus prophetic action in the Temple (Mark 11:15-19). The fig tree therefore symbolises Jerusalem and the Temple and Jesus’s words and actions are a prophetic judgement on them.

But I can’t help wondering how the fig tree owner would have felt when he discovered the fate of his property.


Doug Chaplin said...

Have you seen this cartoon?

Philip Ritchie said...

Thanks Doug:)