A theory about Jesus

Jesus Christ lived, died and rose again nearly 2000 years ago. Information about His life and teachings was produced according to literary, historical and missional practices of the time. He therefore never had the chance to be photographed, say, or interviewed on national radio. Neither did He ever fill in a questionnaire of the “What was your most terrifying experience?” “What is your favourite film?” type so common today.

We know He was a Jewish man living in the province of Judea, and that He had a travelling public ministry that started when He was about 30, and lasted for not many years.

I therefore deduce that He was fairly healthy and fit, circumcised, bearded, educated in the Jewish scriptures, of a skin colour somewhat darker than most of the readers of this blog, and spoke Aramaic. Doubtless a more learned person could advise whether He was likely to have been illiterate, and whether He perhaps spoke other languages, eg Greek, Hebrew or Latin.

His teaching was innovative and sometimes confrontational; He was enormously skilled both in argument and in story-telling. He used a wide variety of analogies and metaphor, ranging from admiring the local flowers and commenting on labour pains, to analysing corrupt financial practice and military strategy.

As an aside, Dorothy L Sayers, in the introduction to her “The Man Born to be King”, says “If we did not know all His retorts by heart… we should reckon Him among the greatest wits of all time. Nobody else, in three brief years, has achieved such an output of epigram.” (I had to look up “Epigram: pithy saying or remark, expressing an idea in a clever or amusing way.”)

But we have no way of knowing trivia like His favourite colour or Biblical hero; how often He cried at sad stories; or his reaction to the death of His (adoptive) father Joseph.

There is however one tiny thing that I think it is fair to deduce – his favourite fruit.

Jesus’ parables talk about growing and harvesting corn, a staple food; and managing vineyards, a traditional Biblical metaphor for Israel, and also a common working environment. There’s the extended Vine-Branches metaphor. He also comments on the size of mustard seeds.

He doesn’t say a great deal about specific other fruit.

In both Matthew and Luke, he talks metaphorically about trees and fruit, clearly identifying figs and grapes as good things that you wouldn’t expect to find on a “bad” plant such as a thistle. (Matt 7:16, Luke 6:44)

In Matthew and Mark, He compares spotting eschatological developments to watching the seasonal changes in the fig tree. (Matt 24:32, Mark 14:28-9) In John He notices or knows that Nathanael has been sitting under a fig tree (John 1:48-9 – this admittedly is also a traditional image, I believe.)

In Luke 13, there is a parable about an underperforming fig tree, with some gardening tips.

And, most famously, we have the story in three separate gospels, but which I will quote from Mark:

“On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard it….. As they passed by in the [next] morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, ‘Master, look! The fig tree which you cursed has withered.’ And Jesus answered them, ‘Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, Whoever says to this mountain…’ etc.” (Mark 11: 12-14 and 20-23)

Now plainly there was more going on. This incident may be all about faith, as Jesus seems to imply; or it may be about the “dry and withered” ritualism Jesus was seeing in the Temple, as I have read elsewhere.

But surely it is a little bit about a man who was really looking forward to some delicious figs, and didn’t get them.

I think it’s definite. Jesus’ favourite fruit was the fig. And why not?

Love from the PPI Blogger

1 Comment
  • Clint Redwood

    1st February 2019 at 6:00 pm Reply

    This is a passage I find very difficult, as it seems to portray Jesus as capricious – it seems so unfair to curse a tree for not producing fruit when it’s not the right season, even if you did fancy a nice juicy fig.

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