“Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” – Mark 11:21 (NRSV)
I’m always a little surprised to find that the Jesus in the Bible is really not the same as the Jesus in hymns and on those decorative plates your grandmother had.
Take today’s text, for example. Jesus cursed a fig tree and makes it wither because he was hungry and the fig tree didn’t have any figs on it. Not a very good example to set for the disciples. Not very pastoral.
He didn’t do this kind of thing often, but Jesus wasn’t always in a good mood. Even Jesus got aggravated. And he let it show.
Jesus was perfectly good, but he wasn’t always perfectly nice. One of the many reasons I would never make it as a clergyperson is that people expect ministers to be not only ultra-good but also super-nice and pastoral all the time. Not even Jesus could manage that.
In my earlier years of working among ministers, I spent a lot of time in meetings trying to figure out how they really felt. Anything negative was phrased so carefully that I frequently thought something was being praised when in fact it was being criticized. I remember one former colleague who would not his head energetically up and down while saying, “No, I don’t think so.”
This is what happens when we forget that nice and good aren’t the same thing. We forget that ministers have actual human personalities, just like the rest of us. Just like Jesus.
Please watch over those who serve you and care for us. Keep us from making unfair demands on them, and keep us from setting unfair expectations of ourselves. Make us grateful for one another.