And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he
had looked around upon all things, and now the evening was come, he
went out unto Bethany with the twelve. And on the next day, when they
had come from Bethany, he was hungry: And seeing a fig tree afar off
having leaves, he came, if perhaps he might find anything thereon: and
when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was
not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of you
hereafter forever. And his disciples heard it.
And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began
to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the
tables of the money changers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And
would not allow that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.
And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of
all nations the house of prayer? but you have made it a den of thieves. And the
scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for
they feared him, because all the people were astonished at his doctrine.
And when evening was come, he went out of the city. And in the morning,
as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter
calling to remembrance said unto him, Teacher, behold, the fig tree which
you cursed is withered away. (Mark 11: 11- 21)
Why did Jesus curse this fig tree? Remember, a curse was a pronouncement of judgment, not an act of anger or revenge. The Bible mentions that it was not the right time for figs to appear, so why did Jesus curse the tree when He found no figs on it's branches?
The tree certainly gave every appearance of bearing fruit. It was full of leaves, so it would seem reasonable to expect there to be fruit among it's branches. But outward appearances are often deceiving.
This fig tree represented the nation of Israel. Outwardly they looked like they were flourishing and full of fruit. But like this fruit tree, inwardly there was no fruit to be found. Despite all their religiosity, all their sacrifices and ceremonies, they were spiritually dead. Their faith had become nothing more than an outward show, like the fig tree.
A fruitful fig tree was a symbol of of God's blessing and prosperity for the nation of Israel. Likewise, a barren fig tree represented judgment and rejection. When Jesus cleansed the temple and cursed the fig tree so that it wold never bear fruit again, He was symbolically pronouncing the coming judgment on the nation of Israel. It was also a demonstration of His power to carry out that judgment at the proper time. His disciples were amazed at His power, that He cursed the tree one day, and overnight it withered up and died.
For us, the lesson of the fig tree is that religious profession, rituals, ceremonies, and appearances are not what we will be judged by. We have to be bearing much fruit, not just give an appearance of religiosity.
God is glorified by the fruit of our efforts for His kingdom, and He expects us to “bear much fruit”. What we say or how we profess our religion is nothing but empty words if we are not bearing fruit.
And while others may see only the pretty leaves, or the outward show of religion we display, and thus assume we have much fruit, God judges what is hidden.
Just as Jesus was not fooled by the showy leaves on the empty fig tree, God is not impressed with nor fooled by our outward display of piousness.
Jesus made this quite clear on more than one occasion:
In this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit;
so shall you be my disciples. (John15:8)
You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit.
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you shall know them. (Matt.7:16-20)
He spoke also this parable; 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 vinedresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbers it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and fertilize it: And if it bears fruit, well: and if not, then after that you shall cut it down. (Luke 13:6-9)
We need to learn the lesson of the fig tree. Each of us must ask ourselves, are we bearing much fruit for our Father's kingdom? Or are we like the fig tree in this parable, putting on a good religious show, but not bearing any fruit at all?