It is not that I have anything against fig trees but I have problems with the concept of Jesus being ‘fully human’ and then being presented as though he weren’t. To quote the late Fr harry Williams, “It is heresy to make the divine nature of Jesus swallow up the human” It was an early heresy known as Monophysitism. However, from the earliest times this story has been moderated and given a more holy twist; as it stands it is offensive to the idea of Jesus as the perfect man. That he should behave petulantly and use his power to give expression to his irritation sounds so human, and there’s the problem. We are encouraged to believe that Jesus never got anything wrong. Human beings learn from getting things wrong.
If Matthew and Luke had not written the Nativity stories (stories that were of no concern to the other New Testament writers) we would not have known of Jesus until he was an adult who came to be baptised by John the Baptist, a known and acknowledged prophet in the old and recognised style. It is not surprising that we do not have any facts about Jesus’ childhood and growing years. He was known locally as the carpenter’s son, and the Gospels seem to suggest an ordinary kind of background with a normal dose of sibling rivalry. When we fantasise an idealised childhood of perfection we are denying his humanity; did he never fight with his sibling, argue with his dad or get grumpy with his mum? Was there no shadow to his human nature? Obviously if there was not then he was not fully human. Human shortcomings, mistakes, black holes etc. are not just the sad results of Adam’s or original sin, they are part of the fabric of a developing personality. Sometimes this goes awry; in the vast majority of humans it doesn’t. We grow up and do the best we can.
A ‘perfect’ human upbringing is surely one in which love prevails, where responsibility is encouraged, where each person feels met, affirmed, forgiven, challenged even. It is not a state of pastel purity where there is never a cross word, disobedience, being peeved or plainly bloody-minded. That kind of image may be OK for stained glass windows but does it encourage people to believe in the full humanity of Jesus?
That’s why I love this story of the fig tree that crept into the Gospel in spite of every effort being made to turn it into an example of the benefits of faith. Somehow the follow-up verses make things more not less startling and disruptive to our flawless image of him. Ancient and modern commentators seem to prefer to concentrate their commentary on the preaching opportunity of faith ‘that can move mountains’ rather than on this wonderful lapse of Jesus who was hungry and grumpy.
When reading the gospels we have to bear in mind that they were written as teaching texts to proselytise and to encourage the faithful to be virtuous, kind, careful, loving etc. as proof of the validity, truth and benefit of following in the steps of Christ. The texts don’t serve the same purpose today and we do not do them a favour by acting or preaching as though they do. Changing the attitude with which we come to the texts is the first step to breathing new life into them and, one might hope, into the church to whom they belong.
This section will not be visible in live published website. Below are your current settings (click inside this section to edit the settings):
Current Number Of Columns are = 3
Expand Posts Area = 1
Gap/Space Between Posts = 15px
Blog Post Style = card
Use of custom card colors instead of default colors = 1
Blog Post Card Background Color = current color
Blog Post Card Shadow Color = current color
Blog Post Card Border Color = current color
Publish the website and visit your blog page to see the results
If you want to see more articles, please join Josephine's Patreon account here.
Subscribe to Josephine's Blog by clicking on the RSS Feed icon below.