THE FIG TREE AND YOU
And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing 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 thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard [it.] Mark 11 vs 12 – 14.
One thing to note is the significant events that surrounded Jesus. One example is the family he was born i.e. the family of David which significe His kingship, being born in Bethlehem (which means ‘House of Bread or House of provision) to significe Him as a provider. Verse 1 read He came near Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany. In Aramaic, Bethphage means ‘house of unripe figs’ or ‘place of young figs’ while Bethany means ‘house of ripe figs’. So Jesus went to a place where there is excess of fig trees.
After Jesus’ triumphant entry to Jerusalem, He came again to the temple. On the way the following day, He passed a fig orchard and because He was hungry, He came, if haply He might find anything thereon: and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.”
It is important to note that it was not the season for ripe figs, except in certain localities; But in this particular orchard, one tree appeared to be in advance of all the others. It was already covered with leaves. Fig tree’s naturally grow fruit before the leaves open, so this tree in full leaf gave promise of well-developed fruit within it. But its appearance was deceptive. Upon searching its branches Jesus found “nothing but leaves.” It was a mass of pretentious foliage, nothing more. Understanding what it means for figs to be in season shows us how Jesus can expect fruit when it is not fig season. During springtime, Palestinian fig trees begin producing taksh — Arabic for immature, edible figs. Ripe, sweet figs are harvested in the summer, the season for figs to which Mark’s gospel refers. Lush foliage signals that taksh are present; thus, Jesus rightly expects fruit when He combs through the leaves; yet appearances are deceiving in this case.
Christ then cursed it, saying “No man eat fruit of thee hereafter forever,”. The next morning, as the Saviour and His disciples were again on their way to the city, the blasted branches and drooping leaves attracted their attention. “Master,” said Peter, “behold, the fig tree which Thou cursed is withered away.”
You see, Christ’s act in cursing the fig tree had astonished the disciples. It seemed to them unlike His ways and works. Often they had heard Him declare that He came not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. They remembered His words,
“The Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” Luke 9:56.
His wonderful works had been done to restore, never to destroy. The disciples had known Him only as the Restorer, the Healer. This act stood alone because it destroyed instead of healing. Why?
You see, in Christ’s mercy, He lifted the veil to the future, and reveals to men the results of a course of sin. He foretells them the results so that they may choose eternal life instead of death.
The cursing of the fig tree was an acted parable. All the trees in the fig orchard were destitute of fruit; but the leafless trees raised no expectation, and caused no disappointment. The other trees without leaves therefore represented the Gentiles. They made no boastful pretensions to goodness. They were blind to the works and ways of God. With them the time of figs was not yet. They were still waiting for a day which would bring them light and hope.
That barren tree, flaunting its pretentious foliage in the very face of Christ, was a symbol of the Jewish nation at the time. The Jews had stood forth distinct from all other nations, professing allegiance to God. They had been specially favoured by Him, and they laid claim to righteousness above every other people.
The barren tree, therefore, represented the Jews who also spread their pretentious branches, luxuriant in appearance, and beautiful to the eye, but they yielded “nothing but leaves.” The Jewish religion, with its magnificent temple, its sacred altars, its priests and impressive ceremonies, was indeed fair in outward appearance, but humility, love, and benevolence were lacking. They were corrupted by the love of the world and the greed of gain and thus were full of hypocrisy.
The Jews, who had received greater blessings from God, were held accountable for their abuse of these gifts. The privileges of which they boasted only increased their guilt. Thus when Christ cursed the life out of the fig tree, he symbolically took the privilege of the Jewish nation to preach the gospel from them and directed it to the gentiles
Christ’s act in cursing the tree which His own power had created now stands as a warning to all churches and to all Christians. No one can live the law of God without ministering to others. But there are many who do not live out Christ’s merciful, unselfish life. Some who think themselves excellent Christians do not understand what constitutes service for God.
They plan and study to please themselves. They act only in reference to self. Time is of value to them only as they can gather for themselves. They only minister for themselves and exclude others, negating the command Christ gave them that they are the salt of the world, they are to flavour the world.
God created them to live in a world where unselfish service must be performed. He designed them to help their fellow men in every possible way. But self is so large that they cannot see anything else. They are not in touch with humanity.
Those who thus live for self are like the fig tree, which made every pretension but was fruitless. They observe the forms of worship, but without repentance or faith. In profession they honour the law of God, but obedience is lacking. They say, but do not. In the sentence pronounced on the fig tree Christ demonstrates how hateful in His eyes this vain pretence is. He declares that the open sinner is less guilty than is he who professes to serve God, but who bears no fruit to His glory.
Our Savior’s malediction does more than just express His righteous anger at the lack of figs. As John Calvin comments, Christ intends “to present in this tree an outward sign of the end which awaits hypocrites, and at the same time to expose the emptiness and folly of their ostentation.” Jesus curses the fig tree in the context of His teaching on hypocrisy: He casts out temple merchants who exploit others while claiming to serve God (Matt. 21:12–13); He must deal with religious authorities who will not recognize John the Baptist’s divine authority (vv. 23–27); He tells a parable that condemns those who pledge service but then do nothing (vv. 28–32). Moreover, the Old Testament sometimes speaks of covenant-breaking Israel as a barren fig tree (Hos. 2:12; Mic. 7:1–6). Christ’s curse is a foreshadowing of what will happen to hypocrites — those Israelites who, like the fig trees with leaves, promise fruit but fail to deliver.
Matthew Henry writes, “The fruit of fig trees may justly be expected from those who have the leaves. Christ looks for the power of religion from those who make profession of it.” The cursing of the fig tree is a sobering reminder of just how much the Lord hates hypocrisy. As Christians we must live consistently with what we say we believe. An unbelieving world is watching us; therefore, let it only see those who practice what they preach.
In every age there is given to men their day of light and privilege, a probationary time in which they may become reconciled to God. But there is a limit to this grace. God “delighteth in mercy.” Micah 7 vs 18
God cannot force it on anyone, we all have a choice. Mercy may plead for years and be rejected; but there comes a time when mercy makes her last plea. The heart becomes so hardened that it ceases to respond to the Spirit of God. Then the sweet, winning voice entreats the sinner no longer, and reproofs and warnings cease.
The parable of the fig tree, spoken before Christ’s visit to Jerusalem, also had a direct connection with the lesson He taught in cursing the fruitless tree. For the barren tree of the parable the gardener pleaded, “Let it alone this year, until I shall dig about it and dress it; and if it bear fruit, well; but if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down” Luke 13 vs 6-9.
Increased care was to be given the unfruitful tree. It was to have every advantage. But if it remained fruitless, nothing could save it from destruction. In the parable the result of the gardener’s work was foretold.
We are Christ possession, we have been bought with a price. It means we are no longer independent or in control of our lives, we are now His. As a child of His we are in His Kingdom. He freely gave gives us all what we need to grow, mature, and even fight off the diseases of the evil one. Our Lord is expecting something from us. We can debate or doubt this, but the facts are clear. God expect something of His people.
It thus depends upon that people to whom Christ’s words are spoken. They are represented by the fruitless tree, and it rests with them to decide their own destiny. Every advantage that Heaven can bestow is available for them to claim, but they will not profit by their increased blessings thus Christ’s act in cursing the barren fig tree was to show them the result of that rejection.
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