Jesus’ Fig Sandwich

On Holy Monday we remember the story where Jesus got “hangry” and cursed a fig tree to death for not having any figs on it, despite the fact that it wasn’t the time of year where it should have had figs.

But what appears at first to be a hilarious story soon becomes serious. We see the deeper meaning going on in Mark’s typical “sandwich” writing technique. This gospel writer loves to start a story, stick another story in the middle of it, and then return to his original story after in order to make a point.

In the case of this sandwich, a fig tree is cursed, then Jesus flips the tables at the temple in Jerusalem, and then he returns to find the fig tree withered, helping us to see that Jesus’ “hanger” is more than just physical—it’s spiritual too. Jerusalem was at one point the spiritual capital of the cosmos—Mount Zion, where God dwelled. It was supposed to be a garden full of spiritual fruit for all the world to marvel at and taste. But instead of becoming a fruitful garden, the spiritual cosmos had become a religious business center full of profit, corruption, and hypocrisy.

Jerusalem was the fig tree and despite all of its activity, it was fruitless. But while “this mountain” would be cast into the sea and wither and be destroyed (as Jesus prophesied elsewhere), the temple of Jesus’ body would flourish. And those who truly live for Jesus will bear fruit for him and be pruned to grow even more fruit, while those who don’t will be cut off.

May our lives be fruitful this Holy Monday.

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