This week’s Bible Lesson from the Christian Science Quarterly addresses the subject “Are Sin, Disease, and Death Real?”. In observance of Easter, these Scriptural selections and their correlative passages from the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy, celebrate and confirm Christ Jesus’ complete victory over death and the grave some 2000 years ago. They also celebrate Jesus’ demonstration over all of the effects of sin, disease, and death. An understanding of these demonstrations offers the potential of full salvation to all of humanity. The truth and success of Jesus’ great life work culminated in his own personal victory over death, illustrated and proven by his resurrection from the grave, after which he presented to human observers the very same body which his persecutors had unsuccessfully attempted to permanently kill.
The 21st Chapter of the Gospel of Matthew relates that five days before his crucifixion, Jesus came to the temple in Jerusalem and found it corrupted by the evils of rabbinical authority. The priests were profiting from the very people to whom they were supposed to minister, by exchanging their foreign currencies for silver and gold at unfair rates, and in turn further profiting themselves personally by selling doves for the traditional Jewish rite of sacrifice – all right there within the holy temple! Angered by this injustice, Jesus overthrew the tables of the money exchangers and of all involved in this illicit activity. Hepurged the temple of its abusive materialistic activities. Of course this angered the rabbis, and they were further enraged when Jesus thereafter set about teaching in that very temple which he had just purged, healing the multitudes, the sick and sinning who came to absorb the divine Love which he literally exuded in the process of healing them all completely and absolutely of all of their infirmities. The rabbis were not able to do such great works and were selfishlyenraged by them. How dare Jesus, a common carpenter with no priestly heritage, eject the elite from their very own temple, and then proceed to assume the task of ministering to the people! On top of this outrage, Jesus was able toheal, whereas they could not!
That evening after healing many, he left the temple and lodged at Bethany. In the morning as he was returning to the city, he was hungry and encountered a fig tree. Matthew 21: 19,20 relates “And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!”
It is often asked how and why Jesus caused the fig tree to wither away. It seems at first almost contrary to all of the positive healing actions which Jesus so famously practiced, so that even those familiar with Jesus’ healing works are sometimes confused by this curse. The purging of the temple which had just occurred the previous day sheds some light on Jesus’ frame of mind when he caused the fig tree to wither. He had just witnessed the fruitless activities of corruption going on in the temple in Jerusalem, and had then purged it of its fruitless nature, and then set about accomplishing the higher task of healing the sick in the temple. It was externally a beautiful temple with a great and wonderful purpose, but that purpose had been exploited by its rabbinical authority. Jesus then set about illustrating that the beauty of the temple is not in its representation or its material grandeur, not in the piousness of its rabbis and priests, but in the spiritual activity of God’s healing love. This he demonstrated by healing those who had come to see him at Jerusalem.
What was Jesus thinking of this fig tree? Like the temple, it appeared to be beautiful, but was corrupt in nature. Its appearance was a false appearance. It was producing no fruit. Like the temple pretending to be a structure of God through its glorious appearance, where was the love and good in the temple? The fig tree looked nice too, but where was its fruit?
Jesus thought continually as the Christ. Where mortal men saw imperfection and materiality, Jesus’ Christly thought saw only perfection and spirituality. Although, in order to heal them, Jesus must have been aware of the mortal presentation of discord, sin, disease, and all of the related etceteras of evil, he never recognized them as having any valid authority. He saw sin, disease, death – anything not in consonance with the constant law of God, as invalid. He understood the perfect spiritual character of everything which appeared to hisperfect consciousness to be the only valid reality. This deep ability to perceive the spiritual nature in everything brought the manifestation of that perfection to the consciousness of everyone in his presence. This was the scientific basis of his healing works, and the scientific basis of the withering of the non-bearing fig tree.
Regarding both the temple and the fig tree: that which has a holy purpose must also have a holy effect. God being the one and only perfect Cause, what that Cause knows must also have a perfect effect, because divine Cause and effect are spiritual law. Therefore a fig tree bearing no fruit is the appearance of an incomplete effect, and would have to be the reflection of an imperfect Cause. Jesus knew that the only Cause that exists is a perfect Cause. The non-bearing fig tree was therefore of no value. The non-bearing tree was not following the law of God’s Cause, and must therefore be a mentally invalid representation of a tree. Jesus always saw the spiritual reality in every one of his observations. A non-bearing tree would not be able to reproduce and grow another fig tree, and would therefore not be representing God’s law of eternal unfoldment, and the non-bearing fig tree was therefore invalid.Its true invalidity was instantly experienced by those in Jesus’ immediate mental realm. The fig tree took on its true appearance – withered and dead.
Jesus perfect perception of spiritual reality as perceived through his Christ nature must have been along the lines of Genesis 1: 11 which says: ”And God said, let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth” and it was so”, and Genesis 1:31 which says “And God saw every thing that he had made and behold it was very good”.
The key phrase is “whose seed is in itself”. The fig tree must live by divine law! That which reflects God’s perfect and consistent law of causation must logically and naturally be perfectly mimicked as God’s identical effect.
As in every other instance of what appear to human sense as a miracle, Jesus did not really perform miracles per se. To lower human sense, which cannot comprehend their meanings, the appearance of spiritual action often appears to be miraculous. Jesus demonstrated a higher understanding of what constitutes reality, than that which is shared by common humanity. He brought to human manifestation the perfect reality which his perfect Christ-thinking presented to consciousness, his own, and of those who were near him.
Jesus’ ultimate demonstration for humanity began to unfold four days after this fig tree incident. He had set out to raise the spiritual consciousness of the world, but his mission had been misunderstood by the rabbinical powers which ruled the society of his day. Following the betrayal of one of his own followers, Jesus’ supposedly pious priestly persecutors unjustly murdered him on the cross. But his superior sense of spiritual being proved to the world that a perfect mastery of the perception of the ever-presence of Love is the master of hatred. Armed with perfect understanding of man’s inseparability from God’s love, Jesus was able to defeat the power of death, which was previously supposed to be a fixed fact.
Mary Baker Eddy writes on page 43 (ibid) “Jesus’ last proof was the highest, the most convincing, the most profitable to his students. The malignity of brutal persecutors, the treason and suicide of his betrayer, were overruled by divine Love to the glorification of the man and of the true idea of God, which Jesus’ persecutors had mocked and tried to slay. The final demonstration of the truth which Jesus taught, and for which he was crucified, opened a new era for the world. Those who slew him to stay his influence perpetuated and extended it.”
We owe Jesus endless respect and honor in all time to come. His understanding of the inseparable relationship between God and man was at such an advanced human level that he could have avoided the entire ordeal of capture, torture, and crucifixion. But he demonstrated his own love for mankind by making this ultimate sacrifice of his mortal life for the salvation of the world. Mrs. Eddy says on page 51 (ibid) “…but he (Jesus) allowed men to attempt the destruction of the mortal body that he might furnish the proof of immortal life.” As Jesus is quoted to have said in the Gospel of John 15:14 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”