Humble Hero


A Doomed People

This chapter is based on Matthew 21:17-19; Mark 11:11-14, 20, 21.

The last appeal to Jerusalem had been fruitless. The priests and rulers had heard the prophetic voice that the people echoed in answer to the question, “Who is this?” but they did not accept it as the voice of Inspiration. In anger they tried to silence the people. To Roman officers in the crowd, Jesus’ enemies denounced Him as the leader of a rebellion. They claimed that He was about to take possession of the temple and reign as king in Jerusalem. HH 268.1

But in a calm voice Jesus again declared that He had not come to establish an earthly rule. He would soon ascend to His Father, and His accusers would see Him no more until He would come again in glory. Then, too late, they would acknowledge Him. HH 268.2

Jesus spoke these words with sadness and with noteworthy power. The Roman officers were quiet and subdued. Their hearts were moved as they had never been moved before. They read love and quiet dignity in the solemn face of Jesus. Stirred by a sympathy they could not understand, they were inclined to pay Him honor and respect. Turning on the priests and rulers, they charged them with creating the disturbance. HH 268.3

Meanwhile Jesus went unnoticed to the temple. All was quiet there, for the scene on the Mount of Olives had called the people away. For a short time Jesus remained, looking at the temple with sorrow. Then He returned to Bethany. When the people looked for Him to place Him on the throne, they could not find Him. HH 268.4

Jesus spent the entire night in prayer, and in the morning He came to the temple again. On the way He was hungry, “and seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.” HH 268.5

On the highlands around Jerusalem it could truly be said, “It was not the season for figs.” But in the orchard to which Jesus came, one tree appeared to be ahead of all the others. It was already covered with leaves, giving promise of well-developed fruit. But its appearance was deceptive. Jesus found “nothing but leaves.” It was a mass of showy foliage, nothing more. HH 268.6

Christ pronounced a withering curse on it. “May no one ever eat fruit from you again,” He said. NRSV. Next morning, as the Savior and His disciples were again on their way to the city, the dead branches and drooping leaves attracted their attention. “Rabbi,” said Peter, “look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.” HH 268.7

To the disciples, Christ’s cursing of the fig tree seemed unlike what He would usually do. They remembered His words, “The Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” Luke 9:56. He had always worked to restore, never to destroy. This act stood alone. “What was its purpose?” they questioned. HH 269.1

“‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.’” Ezekiel 33:11. To Him the work of destruction and the pronouncing of judgment is a “strange work.” Isaiah 28:21, KJV. But in mercy and love He lifts the veil from the future and reveals the results of a course of sin. HH 269.2

The barren fig tree, making a great show of foliage in the face of Christ, was a symbol of the Jewish nation. The Savior wanted to make plain the cause of Israel’s doom and its certainty. To do this, He made the tree the teacher of divine truth. The Jews claimed righteousness above every other people. But the love of the world and the greed of gain corrupted them. They made a show of spreading their branches high, appearing lush and beautiful to the eye, but they yielded “nothing but leaves.” The Jewish religion, with its magnificent temple and impressive ceremonies, was indeed impressive in outward appearance, but it lacked humility, love, and benevolence. HH 269.3