Mark 11:12 - 25
ESV - 12 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.
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One week before His death, Jesus cursed the fruitless fig tree to illustrate what was going to happen to the Jewish nation. In the Bible there are only two things that ever died in Jesus’ presence: the demon-possessed pigs (Mark 5:11-13) and this fig tree. Figs, unlike other trees, start producing fruit before leaves. In fact, the fruit should be ripe when the leaves are fully developed. Just like the Jewish nation, the fig tree was full of leaves but had no fruit. Although this specific tree outside Jerusalem was out of season, had all the signs of having fruit. With its temple, priesthood, and sacrifices, Israel had all the trappings of true religion, but the genuine fruits of justice, mercy, and faith (Matt 23:23) were missing.
In my opinion, Jesus performed this action for two reasons -- to demonstrate to the apostles the power that could be theirs through faith (as Jesus elaborated on when the apostles subsequently noted that the fig tree withered in response to Jesus' command); and as an allegory of the manner in which He had been incarnated expecting to find acceptance and faith in Israel, but had been largely rejected to the point of His forthcoming crucifixion (despite the priests putting on a "show" of religious piety, just as the fig tree gave the appearance of bearing fruit), as a consequence of which the Romans would subsequently destroy Jerusalem, just as the fig tree was destroyed down to its roots.
The very first thing we need to understand that Jesus our Lord did not curse the fig tree. It was Peter's conclusion that Jesus cursed it. Second thing we should note that there is no indication at all that it was an acted parable indicating Jewish nation's destruction. Cursory reading appears as if the Lord was annoyed because of no fruit in the tree. But this is not true. Skipping breakfast was normal for the Lord. He had the habit of early rising and going to a secluded place for prayer and meditation (Mark 1:35). More over skipping food for days could not bother Him. He had went without food for forty days at the very beginning of His ministry. On this particular day the Lord made known to His disciples that He was hungry. This should have been surprising to the disciples, why the Lord told about it, for the Lord had never bothered about His physical needs. Even asking for a drink to the samaritan woman was for the woman's benefit. Here the disciples had immaturely concluded that He went to the fig tree in the search for figs to quench His hunger. The fig tree was perfectly a normal tree. It did not need an agriculture specialist to know it was not the right time for the fig tree to have fruits. It was simply a matter of general knowledge. More over the Lord had said "Let no one eat fruit from you ever again." The words 'ever again' means it was not a barren tree. In its season, the tree had always produced fruits. The tree had green leaves shows that it was still ecologically good enough to produce oxygen. More over the tree was not blocking any passage as the Lord had to walk some distance off the road to reach it. Then why did He not want it to produce any fruit ever again? This event took place in the last week of our Lord's earthly life. So He was spending more and more times with His disciples, teaching them important things of the faith and life. Here He, I believe, is teaching about the importance of prayer in believers' lives. The one who believes in God and is constantly in touch with God, and acting with one accord with God, will have such power in his/her words that could even move the mountains. The Lord touching the tree and its leaves indicates, as if, the Lord was silently saying to the tree, "You are a good tree. But my disciples need visual demonstration of faith in God and prayer life. So I want you withered." The tree must have silently said, "Let your will be done, Lord". Thus, this fig tree is not cursed but used by our Lord for the benefit of the disciples, as the sufferings and violent deaths of prophets and saints, not that they were cursed, were for our examples (Mt. 5:12).
Jesus did not curse the fig tree without reason. It must be understood that fig trees are unique in the sense that many varieties produce two crops per year. The first crop develops before the leaves appear (known as the breba crop) and the second (the main crop) develops after the leaves have sprung. So, it was natural and normal for Jesus to expect figs of the breba crop kind in the tree when he saw the leaves on the fig tree, and he was naturally disappointed to find no figs. Please refer to https://allaboutfigs.com/does-a-fig-tree-produce-fruit-before-leaves/ to understand the unique characteristics of fig tree production. The reference in verse 13 that it "was not yet the season for fruit" refers to the period of the expected main (second) crop of figs. But, it was quite normal to expect fruit of the first (breba) crop in the tree full of leaves. In my opinion, Jesus would never unjustly chasten or curse a tree, or for that manner, a believer in Him. Through His engagement with the fig tree, Jesus wanted to underline clearly to His disciples that bearing no fruit was unacceptable behaviour to those that believed in and followed Him. He also wanted to demonstrate to them the power of faith in the natural world, where we can move mountains or make an unfruitful fig tree wither and die if we asked and truly believed that we would receive (verse 24). He made it absolutely clear that faithful prayer was conditional on us releasing and forgiving those who wronged us first (verse 25). Without true forgiveness we cannot earnestly ask Him anything and faith without forgiveness is meaningless and has no power. In this episode of the fig tree, Jesus wanted to teach His disciples that living in His Love could not be done without bearing the fruits of the Holy Spirit and being unwilling to forgive others.
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