Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Holy Week

This is Tuesday leading to the great event in history. An event that has been enshrined in the Apostles' Creed (see bold words below).

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. AMEN. [The Apostles' Creed]

(Credit: Friendship Presbyterian Church, Georgia, PCUSA)
It is an event that is remembered by Churches all over the world. Holy Week is the final week of Lent, and is marked by the following days:

Day 1 - Palm Sunday
Day 2 - Remembering how Jesus cleansed the temple (Matt 21:10-19)
Day 3 - Reflecting on how the Sadducees question the resurrection (Matt 22:23-33) and how Judas begins to scheme about betraying Jesus (Mark 14:10-11).
Day 4 - Watching and Praying
Day 5 - Maundy Thursday (Recalling events on the night Jesus was betrayed; (Matt 26:21-25))
Day 6 - Good Friday - (Remembering how Jesus was arrested, betrayed, forsaken, deserted, unjustly punished and humiliated)
Day 7 - Holy Saturday - The gloom of the death of Jesus and the doom of dashed hopes
Day 8 - Resurrection Sunday / Easter - The hope and the glory.

My Reflection on the Withered Fig Tree for Day 3

Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered. When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked. Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”(Matthew 21:18-22)

I find the scene a big contrast in human emotions. Jesus took a look at the fig tree that failed to bear any fruits, and cursed it. As a result, the fig tree withered immediately. The disciples were amazed and show great concern for the fig tree. It is a contrast of how Jesus sees the world, and how the disciples see the world.  I have three thoughts with regard to the short passage above. Firstly, it is an image of judgment. The fig tree has not been bearing fruit in the first place. Perhaps, it is taking its own sweet time. Perhaps, it is waiting for the right time. Unfortunately, when the time comes for judgment, results are expected. Jesus the Judge is visibly upset about the fig not doing what it is supposed to do. When the Son of God needs the fruit when He is hungry, imagine the disappointment when the fig tree failed to produce?  Why not then put it out of misery quickly? Why waste the water, the sunlight, and the nutrients on a tree that will not bear fruit?

Secondly, it is a reminder to ourselves: Are we always preparing ourselves to be ready? Military forces all over the world constantly hold war games and drills to keep the soldiers in tip top conditions. Nobody really knows when the next war will be. The next best thing is to be ready. On Palm Sunday, the donkey was ready. The disciples were ready. Even the people at Jerusalem were ready with their clothes and palm leaves. The fig tree was not ready.

Thirdly, it is a passage about faith. Jesus says that with faith, one can do what Jesus has done. With faith in Jesus and a restored relationship with God, not only will we escape the judgment on our sin, we sit with Christ on the side of righteous judgment. Interestingly, Jesus submits himself to let God's will be done. While some people will tend to see great faith in terms of getting what they want, Jesus sees greater faith in terms of doing God's will. This is the essence of faith: Trusting God to do what is best, not according to what we want.

Be watchful and prayerful through the Holy Week.


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