Pity the poor fig tree. It didn’t have a chance. It had no fruit, not because it was “bad” but simply because it wasn’t in season. For that, Jesus uncharacteristically curses it, and it withers and dies.
This may not fit our image of Jesus being kind and understanding. Why did he do it? Didn’t he understand horticulture? Was he overly hungry and out of sorts? Not Jesus, we may want to say, but with us we can see it happening.
The two segments of the story bracket Mark’s account of the cleansing of the temple. A showplace of religion, it could hide deceit and corruption within an aura of showy prayers and piety, much like the fig tree being all leaf and no fruit. The fig tree couldn’t help it, but humans can. Doing good for God and others is never out of season. Without it, our faith withers and dies. No one need condemn us. We condemn ourselves in what we do or fail to do. It happens.
Pure religion, we read in James, includes “care for widows and orphans in their distress.” (James 1:27) That fruit is never out of season.
Bless our prayers and piety, O God, that they give focus and strength to our care for others. Amen. — LDK