A treeful of loincloths
“May no one ever eat fruit from you again” means Jesus was going to conquer sin, burn the loincloths, and clothe people in his own righteousness.
12 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.
In the verses leading up to this passage, the King of Israel is ushered into its capital city. Jesus is heralded by the masses with a parade befitting a grand political victory. Toward the end of the day he makes his way to the temple.
It is not hard to imagine Jesus feeling the first twinges of pressure as he surveys the scene, his mind lingering on the Passover sacrifice that he was going to become. Sin’s time running rampant in this world was almost up.
He then decides to spend the night in a nearby village called Bethany, the home of his once-dead friend Lazarus. The next morning, we find Jesus talking to a tree.
Jesus and his disciples are walking from Bethany back toward Jerusalem. He gets hungry and looks for something to eat on a tree that isn’t in season. We might explain the error by mumbling something about Jesus being a carpenter and not a farmer, but this would overlook how commonly figs act as a neon signpost in the larger storyline of the bible.
In the first moments after sin entered the world, fig leaves were used to hide our nakedness.
In a week that would end with being stripped naked and nailed to a tree for the sin of the world, Jesus is staring at a treeful of loincloths for sinful people.
Every single time Jesus talks to creation something crazy happens. Storms stop, legs straighten, bread multiplies, eyeballs heal, trees die, bodies come out of the grave.
But when Jesus curses something, it is a signal that he is dealing with sin. We hear the echo all the way back to the fall of mankind, as Jesus talks to the fig tree and says, “Genesis 3 is about to be reversed.” Jesus curses the Curse and by the end of the week, “death itself would begin working backwards.”1
The immediate result of the Fall was that God’s image bearers were left running in fear from our Father, bent on hiding from the only one who could heal our shame. This nakedness is incredibly powerful. Everyone knows the fear of being exposed in our sin, the feeling of being flooded with shame and groping in the darkness searching for a place to hide.
In the garden of Eden, as we bit into the fruit, sin entered the world and distorted our very souls. Rather than trust God to tell us right from wrong, we tasted sin and were blinded. Good and evil cracked into pieces and, instead of attaining godlike knowledge, we lost our ability to tell the difference.
The cross is where good and evil are nailed together. “May no one ever eat fruit from you again” means the reversal of life and death, good and evil, sight and blindness, judgment and salvation. It means Jesus was going to conquer sin, burn the loincloths, and clothe people in his own righteousness.
This fig tree was out of season, but the cross would be evergreen for the healing of sin.
1 C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe