This is post #5 of a series entitled RELIGION OR RELATIONSHIP: Five Days that Define Our Call in Christ. We hope you’ll enjoy this series of 27 podcasts and blogs that focuses a bit deeper on the first five days of what we now call Holy Week. Using the Gospel text found in Matthew 21 through 25, we explore the major differences between organized religion and true relationship with Christ. Practical sessions that give us Jesus’ view of spirituality as compared to the religiousness found in so many people today. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
Today’s Lectio Divina: Early the next morning Jesus was returning to the city. He was hungry. Seeing a lone fig tree alongside the road, He approached it anticipating a breakfast of figs. When He got to the tree, there was nothing but fig leaves. He said, “No more figs from this tree—ever!” The fig tree withered on the spot, a dry stick. The disciples saw it happen. They rubbed their eyes, saying, “Did we really see this? A leafy tree one minute, a dry stick the next?” But Jesus was matter-of-fact: “Yes—and if you embrace this Kingdom life and don’t doubt God, you’ll not only do minor feats like I did to the fig tree, but also triumph over huge obstacles. This mountain, for instance, you’ll tell, ‘Go jump in the lake,’ and it will jump. Absolutely everything, ranging from small to large, as you make it a part of your believing prayer, gets included as you lay hold of God.” Matthew 21: 18-22 (MsgB)
For Jesus of Nazareth, there is little He says or does that has little significance.
Sadly, today’s passage about the cursing of a fig tree has been used by many, modern-day preachers to encourage church leaders to be even more certain of their strong call to leadership.
“You gotta learn to use your authority,” preachers proclaim. “You just gotta believe that when you say it…it happens!”
This ‘name-it-claim it’ theology that uses today’s text as a teaching tool just could be one of the most destructive teachings in modernized, Americanized Christianity. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been around pastors and church leaders who claim to be moving in the authority of Christ, but quite simply, are so full of themselves, they’re cherry-picking this scripture in order to substantiate their own abuse of power.
It’s time, folks, to callz ‘em as I seez ‘em.
A careful read of Matthew 21 should help us understand that Jesus is in no mood here to encourage more bravado into his ministry team. Just a page or two back, we find Jesus (Matthew 20) warning these same guys who are clamoring for first-chair saint about the evils of trying to position themselves into a place of prominence. If anything in this withered fig tree story is obvious, it should be that Jesus has come to Jerusalem to speak death to the fig tree called organized religion. At every turn over a period of five days, (Palm Sunday through Maundy Thursday) Jesus is both proclaiming and demonstrating a new way of following God; a way of freedom, a way of truth, a way of love, a way of humility.
So please, church. Let’s get this right.
True Christianity is all about real relationship…not religious rules and power-driven authority.
As I see it, when Jesus tells His friends that they can move mountains, curse fig trees, and walk on water, it’s not with the understanding that they will do these things to build a bigger audience for themselves.
These miracles will be accomplished not by my power, my authority, or my prominence, but through the hand of God who is with those who labor to tear down religious strongholds that keep the people from being free.
So, with that in mind…
My Prayer: Jesus, in Your name, I curse the fig tree of religious pride and arrogance that keeps me (and others) from enjoying more intimate relationship with God. I tell the mountain of religious rules and regulations to go jump in the lake, so that we can be free of a demanding religious order that controls and manipulates Your people. Holy Spirit, may we all be filled with more faith, hope, and love for the sake of God and for the sake of others around us. For Your Name’s sake. Amen
My Questions to Ponder: How am I cooperating with a form of religiousness that is sucking dry my life in Jesus? What might it look like to tell that fig tree to whither up and die, while speaking life into those practices of spiritual formation that are geared toward building true faith and sustenance in Christ?
So, what are you hearing from Jesus as we take this journey into the first 5 Days of Holy Week?
Religion or Relationship: Five Days that Define Our Call in Christ.
A 27-session Lenten blog series from Matthew’s Holy Week Gospel.
Throughout the Lenten season (Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday), you and I will take a deeper look at Matthew 21-25. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our blog series home page for ease of use.
If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!