Bible Study - week 5 reflections



There seemed to be a general feeling of “seeing through a glass darkly” among the group this week. We were all puzzled by the strange story of the cursing of the fig tree. On the face of it, it seemed to be a petty thing for Jesus to do.  A commentary had described it as the only negative miracle associated with Jesus. Was it pointing to the fact that the fruits of Jesus’ ministry would not be seen until after the crucifixion?  Perhaps the heading “The cursing of the fig tree” used by some versions of the Bible was not very helpful. Some background information on the fig tree was helpful.  It was pointed out that the fig tree in Jewish tradition was a symbol of security. It would have been very familiar to Mark and to his listeners.  It was a strong tree with an impressive display of leaves. Jesus was now in open conflict with the Pharisees, as evidenced by the parable about the widow and the Pharisee and even more so by the parable of the tenants of the vineyard.  Given that fact the most likely explanation seemed to be that it was a symbol of the religious leaders , who put on a great display of piety, but whose lives did not bear fruit in terms of caring for people. Looked at in that light, it sounds as if Jesus has given up any hope that the religious establishment of his day could ever be reformed.


We thought about the disciples being ordinary working men, and how difficult it must have been for them to understand what Jesus was trying to tell them.  Some of them may have originally been followers of John the Baptist.  We imagined Jesus must have been very charismatic for them to have followed him.  The triumphal entry into Jerusalem must have been particularly puzzling for them, following Jesus’ predictions of his death. This led us to consider the fickleness of crowds and how they can be manipulated by agitators. Some of the crowd would have moved from crying “Hosanna to the son of David” to the chant “Crucify him.”  We also recognised that today we need to be on our guard against being manipulated by the media, which sometimes uses one example of bad behaviour to generalise and condemn a whole group of people. This related particularly to their coverage of immigration issues.  There was a general feeling that the only way to counteract this habit  of putting people into pigeon holes was to strive for integration, so that people got to know each other as individuals rather than as just part of an ethnic group.


The description of the signs of the apocalypse was both disturbing and depressing.  We were reminded that this would  not have been new to Mark’s Jewish listeners.  We recognised that in today’s world there have been situations where families have been divided and betrayed each other to repressive political regimes.  Perhaps we should regard this passage as a warning rather than a threat.