The Fig Tree Diptych


Parable of the Fruitless Fig Tree
The Withering of a Fig Tree


Parable of the Fruitless Fig Tree
In Chapter 13 of the Book of St. Luke we read the discourse on necessity of penance in the face of disaster:

And there were present, at that very time, some that told [Jesus] of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answering, said to them: Think you that these Galileans were sinners above all the men of Galilee, because they suffered such things? No, I say to you: but unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower fell in Siloe, and slew them: think you, that they also were debtors above all the men that dwelt in Jerusalem? No, I say to you; but except you do penance, you shall all likewise perish.

Following that, Jesus tells the parable of the Fruitless Tree:

He spoke also this parable: A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it, and found none. And he said to the dresser of the vineyard: Behold, for these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it done therefore: why cumbereth it the ground? But he answering, said to him: Lord, let it alone this year also, until I dig about it, and dung it. And if happily it bear fruit: but if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.

The parable points to Christ Himself being "the dresser", Who is willing to offer His redemptive work for the sake of man.

The painting shows Christ refusing to cut down the fig tree contrary to the insistence of the owner of the garden. The execution of the Galileans on the order of Pilate, and the fall of the tower of Siloe (or Siloam) are shown in the background.

The Withering of a Fig Tree
The withering of a fig tree is described in the Book of St. Mark, Chapter 11, as well as the Book of St. Matthew, Chapter 21. It happened on the same day as Jesus drove the money changers from the Jerusalem temple. In Mark 11, we read that on the next day St. Peter pointed to the withered tree in amazement as they were passing it by. St. Peter's words prompted the discourse of faith:

Peter remembering, said to him: Rabbi, behold the fig tree, which thou didst curse, is withered away. And Jesus answering, saith to them: Have the faith of God. Amen I say to you, that whosoever shall say to this mountain, Be thou removed and be cast into the sea, and shall not stagger in his heart, but believe, that whatsoever he saith shall be done; shall be done unto him. Therefore I say unto you, all things, whatsoever you ask when ye pray, believe that you shall receive; and they shall come unto you.

The painting shows Christ and Peter next to the withered tree. In the background we see the mountain casting itself into the sea, and Jesus driving out the money changers.