The exchange between Reverend Serene Jones, who said that she doesn’t believe in all dem miracles, that the virgin birth is a bizarre claim, and Reverend Morgan Guyton, who responded that “the thought that God is not allowed to violate the laws of science (and offend the sensibilities of liberal intellectuals) infuriates me”, made me read my passages just a little more slowly, for increased understanding and appreciation. It is good to read the thoughts of others because, if you are receptive, it makes your truth more whole.
From before Easter, wait, a good friend of mine told me that I am a very untimely person and I told him I could never argue with that. Look, if you can’t walk backward you might want to avoid me today, because I’m not timely. Yes, from before Easter I’ve been stuck on this passage in the Bible, just can’t move on to another after I’ve done my regular fare of Psalms and other New Testament verses. I read this passage every day, and marvel.
At Rick’s Club, the upstairs part of Rick’s Club & Bar, an establishment in the area where I grew up, they’d get stuck on the same Jim Reeves’ song for months. I guess Mr. Rick’s bought them a fresh supply of the record they doted on, because for sure they burned them out when they fell in love with them.
In MATTHEW 21, Jesus is about to make His triumphant entry into Jerusalem and this is His last truly exuberant moment on the earth, we know, because He is going to throw down the gauntlet, then will come a feverish week in which there is an explosion of teaching, the betrayal, the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, the abandonment by the Apostles, the condemnation, the Crucifixion on the Cross at Calvary.
In order to fulfill the Scriptures, He must enter Jerusalem by a certain mode. The Bible says, And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say aught unto you…
Ahem, it is my humble belief that Jesus was high when he ordered his disciples to go and get that donkey for him. Bible experts may be able to find other times when Jesus behaved this way, but for me this takes the cake. He must have arranged for the donkey to be at the certain place where he told the disciples they would find it. But there was the likelihood that the owner might have been off some place and some idiot could have stepped in and refused to let the donkey go.
The disciples would have been beyond perplexed by the order. You just don’t go to someone’s house and take their donkey. Jesus was in no mood for questions. His remaining time on earth was short and more than ever before He was about business. Everyone knows the AUGHT was preemptive.
The dictionary says that aught is an archaic term for anything. And that anything could have been absolutely anything. If we will know what anything, aught is, we need to know the person who said it. We know Jesus. He loved children, but He wasn’t speaking to children; He loved women, but He wasn’t speaking to women; He loved His disciples, and they were no saintly types.
When Jesus told them, If anyone tells you AUGHT, He was bringing it in full color for His audience, so that they went without questions, did as they were told, and brought the donkey.
What happened next is just flat out awesome. It is the story of the Triumphal Entry, and you’d have to be stone cold dead inside to not get cold seed and feel your spirits lift and soar to the skies.
It’s a moment for the masses, the downtrodden. This is a Mandela moment, a Fidel moment, an AMLO moment (I have the highest hopes for that guy). This moment is about hope, and that just must be the greatest virtue of all. The other virtues are great, and love, we all want that, but hope we all must have. When hope is gone, all is ashes. At no time in the history of the world was hope ever more alive than on Palm Sunday, the Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem.
And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strewed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
This was a heady moment, and an inspired Jesus then went to the temple and chased men from there who He said had made His Father’s house into a den for thieves. He scattered them, turned over their gambling tables and their chairs. It was in His plan all along because He was really angry about their behavior, but He might have been less rash if the Triumphal Entry hadn’t gone so beautifully.
I told you I think He was high (not drunk) when He came to Jerusalem. If He was in full composure He would not have said, If anyone tells you AUGHT…What happened the next morning proves that Jesus, who saintly men painted as a man who couldn’t brok egg, was not adverse to tasting the wine that He made at the wedding feast.
MATTHEW says that Jesus was hungry when He got up the next morning. Simple overnight hunger does not explain His behavior. MATTHEW says: “Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever. And presently the fig tree withered away.”
There are Christians who take the Bible word for word, but when it pleases them they run away from a literal interpretation. They insist that in the Book of GENESIS, everything is as it is written, with God creating the world in six days. These are people that also bite on heroes of the Old Testament living hundreds of real 365-day years.
I happen to agree with the literal interpretation of this fig tree story and from experience and more observation I conclude that Jesus had a hangover, had the goama when He let loose on the innocent fig tree. He had a taste before the entry into Jerusalem, He tasted some during the night at Bethany, where He spent the night after doing what He had to do in the temple, and in the morning He wasn’t feeling so nice.
The Bible scholar, Greg Lanier, thinks I’m way off page. In the story, “Why Did Jesus Curse the Fig Tree?” (read his full story at www.thegospelcoalition.org), Lanier says, “At this point in late spring, most fig trees haven’t developed mature fruit…But this particular tree draws Jesus’s attention because it already has a full covering of leaves. It’s an early bloomer. Its foliage signals that it should have early figs.
With that expectation, Jesus inspects the tree. He is immediately disappointed. All leaves, no fruit. All expectation, no satisfaction.
“In a shocking turn, Jesus curses the tree and makes it wither from the roots, never to yield fruit again. We are taken aback; this seems stunningly out of character for Jesus, the child-welcomer, compassionate healer, and storm-calmer.
“What should we learn from this peculiar scene? On the surface, it’s an object lesson on the power of faithful prayer…But more is going on behind the scenes. The fig tree cursing, an enacted parable of sorts, is also a sober warning for us today—in at least two ways.”
Lanier says we are to beware of fruitlessness, because “Fruitlessness leads to judgment”…”A lack of fruitfulness is a sign of God’s curse for their (Israel’s) rebellion”, and it is important to “Think about your own figs.” Lanier says that “The fig tree, like the bustling temple courts during Passover, was putting on a good show. And that made it all the worse. It’s one thing to lack fruit out of season. It’s another thing to lack it while pretending you have it.”
I think Lanier is making a big stretch there but there’s one thing for sure that he and I agree on: Jesus kos’d the fig tree. And I believe when He told His disciples to go get the donkey and said if any bohga tell you AUGHT, the air was plenty colorful around Him too. He had a good excuse for His language. But He wasn’t drunk.