And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.…
I. THE DESTRUCTION OF THIS TREE WAS NOT AN ACT OF INJUSTICE. People find it difficult to understand the propriety of punishing an inanimate object for defects which are only possible in higher existences. They argue that, since the fig-tree did not possess freewill, but was simply obeying the law of its kind, our Lord's act was capricious. But observe —
1. The supposed force of this objection is due to our treating a metaphorical expression as if it were the language of reality. We speak of "doing justice" to a picture, when we mean justice to the artist who painted it. The picture itself cannot possibly be treated justly or unjustly, although we may form a true or a false estimate of its merits. Justice and injustice pre-suppose rights to be respected or violated; and rights belong only to a person. In the vegetable world there is no such thing as personality: and no such thing as "rights." To talk, therefore, of "injustice" in blasting or cutting down a tree, is good English if we are in the realms of poetry, but nonsense if in those of moral truth. The tree is there to be made the most of by man. .No one has yet maintained that in using it to furnish our houses, or-brighten our hearths, we sin against any law of natural justice. Surely, then, if by its sudden destruction the tree can do more, much more, than minister to our bodily comfort — if in its way it can be made to teach us a moral lesson of the first importance — there is no room for any question of injustice. What is merely material must always be subordinated to the moral and spiritual; and if a tree can be made, by its destruction, to illustrate a moral or spiritual truth, a high honour is put upon it, a noble work given it to do.
II. THERE WAS NO UNUSUAL SEVERITY IN THIS ACT. The truest mercy always sacrifices the lower to the higher. It is not more cruel to destroy a plant in order to teach a great moral truth, than to destroy a plant in order to eat it. If by its destruction the plant does our soul a service there is quite as good a reason for putting it to some sort of distress, in the process of destroying it, as there is if it is wanted to support our bodies.
Parallel VersesKJV: And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.