Ellen G. White Writings

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Humble Hero, Page 269

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.”

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.

“‘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.

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.

Why This One Tree Was Cursed

The leafless trees raised no expectation and caused no disappointment. These represented the Gentiles, who had no more godliness than the Jews, but who made no boastful claims to goodness. With them “the season for figs” was not yet. They were still waiting for light and hope. God held the Jews, who had received greater blessings from Him, accountable for their abuse of these gifts. The privileges of which they boasted only increased their guilt.

Jesus had come to Israel, hungering to find the fruits of righteousness in them. He had granted them every privilege, and in return He longed to see in them self-sacrifice, compassion, and a deep yearning for the salvation of others. But pride and self-sufficiency eclipsed love to God and humanity. They did not give to the world the treasures of truth that God had committed to them. In the barren tree they might read both their sin and its punishment. Withered, dried up by the roots, the fig tree showed what the Jewish people would be when the grace of God was removed from them. Refusing to give blessing, they would no longer receive it. “O Israel,” the Lord says, “thou hast destroyed thyself.” Hosea 13:9, KJV.

Christ’s act in cursing the tree that His own power had created stands as a warning to all churches and all Christians. There are many who do not live out Christ’s merciful, unselfish life. Time is of value to them only so that

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