As Lent begins we read about Jesus entry into Jerusalem. We had some lucky timing in that we will be reading about the events in Jerusalem as Easter approaches. Matthew places many of Jesus teachings after the entry into Jerusalem. Normally we don’t conceptualize the timeline in this manner. However, Matthew also says that “the whole city” was stirred up at his entry and discussing Jesus. It quite likely that he spent many hours teaching large crowds in the last few days before his arrest. These large crowds, already in Jerusalem for the Passover, probably became enthralled by the dramatic message Jesus was teaching. This likely added to the unease of the religious and secular authorities which would prompt there decision to arrest and kill him.
The cursing of the fig tree is a curious event. Why would Jesus bother to do this? The fig tree is basically a metaphor for Israel. The purpose of a fig tree is to bear fruit. Israel has fulfilled its purpose; it has borne the fruit it was meant to bring forth. It has delivered the messiah to the world. Having fulfilled its purpose it will bear no more. Notice what Jesus says, “And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!”” This doesn’t mean that nothing naturally good will ever come from Israel again but it does mean that the supernatural purpose of Israel is finished.