On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard it.
Jesus was hungry. I’m not sure that’s a state we often associate with Jesus. Yet, if we really believe he was fully human (as well as the Son of God) then it follows he must have gone through the whole set of human experiences, which includes hunger. He wasn’t above or beyond such every day, flesh and blood concerns. Perhaps whoever put him up in Bethany didn’t have enough food to spare to give him a good breakfast, and he knew he had a busy day coming up. This hunger even seems to make him grumpy – he looks for figs on a tree despite knowing it’s not the right time of year, then curses the tree for not having any fruit, a symbolic action that we see the results of a few verses later.
We can all identify with feeling hungry. We’ve all come home after a long day ready for our tea, or looked forward to having a biscuit or two at elevenses to tide us over until lunchtime. A little hunger makes the coming meal all the better. Many of us, though (including me) will have been lucky enough to have never experienced real hunger, and have never had to worry about being able to afford to feed ourselves. That of course is not the case for many people in our world, including many in our own communities, as seen by the growth of food banks. The economic crisis caused by the pandemic has made this even worse. If as a society we hungered more for righteousness than for consumption the food banks, which treat the symptoms rather than the underlying cause of hunger, might no longer be needed. That would truly be a step towards building the Kingdom.
Gracious God, we give thanks for the gift of Jesus and we give thanks for his hunger, both for food and for justice. We give thanks too for the food we eat, and pray that we can learn to share the abundant resources you have given us to build a word where nobody goes hungry.
Rev’d D. Nick Jones, minister, Heswall URC & St. George’s URC, Thornton Hough