by Chip Brogden (www.theschoolofchrist.org)
The most interesting thing about the word "hypocrite" is the only person in the New Testament who ever uses the word is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In that 23rd chapter of Matthew it is Jesus who says seven times, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites."
There is something very unique about the Lord Jesus, something about His character that tends to be overlooked by many people, and I would like to call your attention to it right at the outset of this message. The Lord Jesus is acutely aware of, and very much opposed to, unreality. He is especially attuned to any pretentiousness; to play-acting.
You know how one time He was hungry, and saw a fig tree off in the distance that had leaves on it. So He walked over to the tree and looked for figs. But there were no figs. And right then and there He cursed that fig tree. He cursed it. "May no man eat fruit from you again, forever." And that tree died (see Mk. 11:13-20). Get a picture in your head of what is happening here.
You know I never understood that story? I always felt sorry for the poor fig tree; especially when the Bible says it was not the season for figs. It sounds unreasonable, doesn't it? Why would Jesus expect to find fruit on the fig tree when it wasn't the season for figs?
It wasn't until many years later when I came across a little book called "Bible Manners and Customs" that I understood why Jesus cursed the fig tree. You see in that part of the world, and with that kind of fig tree, the leaves and the fruit appear at the same time. So Jesus is hungry and it isn't the season for figs, yet here is this fig tree full of leaves. Probably the only fig tree that had leaves. Now out of all the other trees this one gets the attention of Jesus. That's why He picks that one to go looking for fruit. Its leaves are advertising: "Hey look at me! I've got leaves! I've got fruit!" So Jesus says, "It isn't the season for figs, but I see your leaves, so I'm coming over to check you out." And that was too bad for the fig tree, because pretentiousness is the sort of thing that gets a very strong response from the Lord Jesus. He is like that. He will not just let it pass. That tree was a hypocritical fig tree. Lots of leaves. An outward show. But it was all pretense. It was a charade. It provided hungry people with false hope! Do you see now why He cursed it? That is the kind of thing that Jesus will not stand for.
Now the tragedy of this story is what the unfruitful fig tree represents. If you study the parables of Jesus then you know that the unfruitful fig tree represents Israel - particularly Jerusalem - supposedly the "city of the great King," waving palm branches and crying out "Hosanna!" - but the whole thing is a farce. Those same people shouting, "Hosanna!" would be shouting, "Crucify Him!" just a few days later. Lots of leaves: there's the Temple, the priesthood, the teachers of the Law, the Torah. Lots of leaves, but no fruit. Jesus said the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation who will bring forth the fruit thereof.
When the Lord looks on this religious system we have created, with all its denominations and church buildings, how do you think He views it? Do you think He is altogether satisfied with things the way they are?
5 years ago