Standing orders in Jerusalem — given by Pilate and understood and supported by Caiaphas — required the immediate arrest of troublemakers at Passover. If we want to understand Jesus’ execution, then, we must pay attention to what Jesus did at the temple. His was a total and visceral rejection of the high Jewish theocratic order, whose high priest had been appointed by Rome.
You see it with the fig tree. In leaf and inviting from afar but barren and curse-worthy in fact. You are full of the bones of the dead and all manner of filth. This is the dharma, the way things are. Can we bear it? Can we take refuge in it? Read Matthew 23 today and see that a man who would say even half of this, with a crowd at his back willing to proclaim him king and a reputation for sorcery on his accusers’ tongues, will, of course, find himself on a Roman cross.
The events of CE 70 are no doubt seeping into Matthew’s report here, but no matter, we can still learn: “See, your house is left to you, desolate.” Jesus came to tell us the truth, not to become a fetish for our pietism. What we have made of tomorrow’s seder will make clear whether there are yet figs on the tree.