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The account of Jesus cursing the barren fig tree is found in two different gospel accounts. First, it is seen in Matthew 21:18-22, and then also in Mark 11:12-14. While there are slight differences...
The cursing of the fruitless fig tree has much to learn for any purposeful Christian (Matt 21:18-22), (Mark 11:12-14). For Jesus had been hungry and as He passed by a fig tree, He sought fruit from it, but it had had none because the season was not. Firstly, let us understand what a fruit is and its spiritual significance. A fruit according to the Oxford dictionary is a sweet and fleshy product of a tree or other plant that contains seed and can be eaten as food. The spiritual significance. Recall that by definition, a fruit is sweet. Meaning; it tests well and this is what attracts people to it. Jesus was to be attracted to the fig tree by its fruit. But because it lacked fruit on it, it had no more purpose. A fruit therefore in spiritual terms; is the product that a person becomes after they have given their lives to Christ. It is how a person's personality is shaped after they have allowed Christ in their lives. It is by the fruit that a Christian is known to be so (Matthew 7:16-18). For a mango tree is confirmed to be so by the fruit it bears. A bad tree can't bear good fruit, like wise a good tree can't bear bad fruit. Much as we may confess our Christianity, it is much more confirmed by how our personality is shaped. Importantly to note also is the fact that fruits do not simply develop because one is Christian. Fruits only come by the presence of the Holy Spirit upon someone. No one by themselves can develop these fruits because no one in human flesh can afford them. They are so costly in terms of how much one is to give up of themselves. Yet what are these fruits? According to (Galatians 5:22-23), the fruits of the spirit are; love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. It is by these fruits that people know we have the Holy Spirit upon us and it is by the presence of the Holy Spirit upon us that we will go to heaven. Thus the Bible emphasizes that we should never grieve the Holy Spirit because His presence upon us is the seal of God's presence on us (Ephesians 4:30). What lessons do we draw from this encounter of Jesus and the fig tree. Among the lessons we could draw out of this encounter are the following; To be Christian is to develop the fruit of the Spirit The fruits of the Spirit are timeless The desires and demands of the body can be relentless. To be Christian is to develop the fruit of the Spirit To be Christian is not only to say you are. Our Lord Jesus teaches by figurative language that a tree that doesn't bear fruit is not worthy keeping and taking care of. Literally, imagine buying a baby milk everyday and they take it wholesomely but remain the same in stature. By the fact that we confess Christ to be the Lord of our lives should bear fruits and show up in real life. Yet we ought to understand that Christ is the reason of all. For even the Holy Spirit is to testify of Jesus (John 14:26). For without Jesus, nobody can be (John 15:1-5). Any tree that does not bear fruit is bound to be felled and gotten rid of (Luke 13:6-9). The fruit of the Spirit is timeless This is so because if you can recall, it hadn't been the season for the fig tree to bear fruit. But Jesus went on to curse it anyway. Meaning there is no time to be excused. Sometimes it is hardest. Recall that we said the fruit of the Spirit comes by the Holy Spirit and by one giving up much of themselves for the sake of God. There is not time when you should not be for Christ. The desires and demands of the body can be relentless This is so because despite having not been the season, Jesus went on to curse the tree. Why so, He had been literally hungry. For that is how flesh is. It has its own demands but we must keep them within the confines of scripture and the will of God. But it also teaches us what the strength of faith can be. For when Jesus cursed the tree, it had looked reluctant to the disciples, yet it did happen (Mark 11:23). For faith tells God is because indeed He is. Amen.
As I was reading the other answers, I recognized many of the teachings (fig tree represents Israel, etc.) I have heard previously about these verses but as I thought about it, I recalled lots of verses that took me to another perspective. First of all, one of my favorite verses in the Bible is the last verse in the book of John which says "Jesus did many other things as well. I suppose if everything He did was written down even the whole world wouldn't hold the books." Because this story "made the book", (not once but twice), to me it has to be very important. Jesus saw this tree and went to it to get figs for His hunger(and probably more importantly to teach a lesson. He chose this tree but He could probably have chosen another.). He knew it was not the season for figs ("the time for figs was not yet"). And yet he went expecting to find figs. There were none. He cursed the tree that no one would ever eat figs from it again and by evening it was shriveled up. The Apostles were amazed by the quickness that it had died but if all that Jesus wanted to show them was his power, would the last verse in John I quoted have reverence. Not to me. I believe Jesus was teaching the Apostles and through them, us, A bigger lesson. One thing I learned early on when studying the Bible was as I read the Bible more than once, more verses make sense. Some verses just didn't make sense in the Old Testament until I read verses in the New Testament and vice versa. Other verses in one or the other needed verses elsewhere in other books in the same Testament. I believe the Holy Spirit brings these verses to our remembrance (if we seek His guidance). The first verse I recalled when reading this question was "Be ready in season and out of season" (2Tim 4:2). Remember, Jesus chose us too! Even though He chose us (and when I say us, I mean everyone who would respond, not just a select few), and it was not due to anything we had done but because of what we would do.... BELIEVE! And even though no works were necessary to receive the gift, because we received the gift and because we believe, we have an obligation to serve Him ("My yoke is easy and my burden is light." Note there is a yoke) In season and out of season. If He needs figs, we should be ready to give Him figs. Thus same principle is illustrated in the story of the ten virgins, five wise and five foolish (foolish in this verse can mean godless as well as unwise). The five wise took extra oil for their lamps, the five foolish did not. The five foolish had to leave to get more oil and the bridegroom came while they were gone. When they returned, they had missed the opportunity and the Door was locked and the bridegroom said I know you not. We must always be ready. 1Pet 3:15 says "But sanctify the Lord in your hearts and be ready always to give an answer to anyone who ask you the reason for the Hope that is in you with meekness and fear." Sanctify in this verse means to dedicate or set aside your heart. In other words realize your obligation to be prepared to serve Him. This particular fig tree represents those He chose who did not come. Who refused to believe and prepare their hearts to serve Him. Many other verses came to mind that I don't have time to go to now but I will end with my favorite verse(s) in the Bible Job 19 25-27 "I know my Redeemer lives and in the end He will stand upon the earth and I myself will see Him with my own eyes, I and not another. How my heart yearns within me!"
There is the parable of the fig tree in Luke 13:6 - 9: "A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of the vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down." The fig tree represents the Jews in the Holy Land. The Lord of the vineyard is God the Father, who must have fruit from the trees he has planted. The dresser who works with the tree represents the work of Christ during his ministry. From actual history the conclusion was that the tree was still unfruitful, even after all the works of Christ, so it must be cut down. This is why Christ cursed the literal fig tree. About 40 years later the Romans destroyed the temple, ravaged the land, and many thousands of Jews were forced into slavery, if not slaughtered.
Matt 21 and Mark 11 gives the account of Jesus seeing a fig tree from afar that gives the appearance of having figs on it due to the leaves that had blossomed. The leaves only show what kind of tree it is. However it was not the season for the tree to bear figs. I believe Jesus knew that. I don't think the teaching here is all that complicated. I've lived next door to a man for over 25 years who has two apple trees in his yard, so by now I know when those trees will bear fruit. The deer around here know too, because they never come out of hiding and into his yard until those trees have apples. Jesus knew what to expect, He was teaching. He cursed the tree to never bear fruit again. Why? The tree was only doing what it was assigned to do when it was planted. Jesus is using a tree to teach a lesson to His disciples. They will have to preach long after He has left them, so they need to be taught. He's training preachers, He's not in the cursing business. This isn't only about fruit, it's about being ready to serve when it's not your appointed time, when the time seems to be not right. If you can't preach the word when the time isn't favorable, then your ministry will wither and die, and it won't take long to happen. Remember, He's getting them ready to preach under great stress and harsh conditions. The same is true for us now. I don't think the emphasis here is on the tree (believer, christian) showing how much in the will of God it is by the fruit it bears. If that was the point of it, I don't believe the "out of season" inscription would be needed. This tree was not out of the will of God. A believer who doesn't bear fruit just might be. "Not it's season to give fruit" is the point of this teaching. This isn't about judging trees (believers). Jesus is NEVER trying to teach us how to judge one another. Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season 2 Tim 4:2. Out of season? That's when you're being told "now is not the time" by those who are enemies of the Cross, when you're being opposed mightily. Unlike fig trees, the truth is always in season, and can fill the ones who hunger for it. He explains the lesson of the fig tree in Mark 11: 20-25. The tree had quickly withered, and Peter brought it to His attention. I think He returned when He did, and went back by the tree purposely, to finish the lesson. He starts talking about having the faith to move mountains as if He's telling them 'you can do the same as I have done if you have faith.' He is teaching them the importance of faith but not so they can move mountains and curse trees. He's telling them how important faith is to a minister or a teacher of the gospel. You must believe in the great power of what you're doing in order to be effective. Also, He says you must be in constant prayer, and believe in the power of your prayers. Without [Him we] can do nothing, John 15:5. Lastly, He tells them they must be willing to forgive. I believe He means that they must be willing to forgive those who would oppose them and their ministry if they wanted the Father to forgive them and bless their service. If they were gifted in these three their ministry would grow in season and out of season, and not wither. His explanation says nothing about them looking the part of a "christian" by the fruit they would bear. He doesn't mention "fruit" in His epilogue. Effective ministry that lasts and grows is the central point. The same is true for us. Our leaves only show what kind of tree we are. The fruit we produce shows our purpose. The fruit doesn't show our goodness. Many believe the fruit we bear refers to our pious lifestyle and holy manner of living that proves our faith is genuine. That is self-seeking glory. That would mean that the tree gets glory because it did what it was assigned to do. This narrative is not about the believer proving that he/she is genuine. It's about effective ministering for a ministry to grow and last.
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