Summary: Jesus curses a fig tree as an acted out parable of the Jerusalem church leadership
Jesus curses the fig tree
The Setting –Jesus enters Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday, the first day of the week. He is met with great celebration. Last week we talked about the crowds cutting down branches to lay along the road like a red carpet, others even put their coats on the path as Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem. Young and old people cried out their praise, Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!
This is where we pick up the story today.
Mark 11:11-14 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve. 12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs.14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it
Mark placed the cleansing of the temple between this account of cursing the fig tree. Matt. has Jesus clearing out the buyers and sellers in the Temple courts, and then cursing a fig tree that immediately withers all on the same day. Mark has Jesus first return to Bethany. Then on the way to Jerusalem from Bethany – Jesus pauses by a fig tree to have breakfast. Seeing that there were no figs, he cursed the tree. It isn’t until that evening that on the way back to Bethany that the disciples notice the fig tree is withered.
Here’s what many people find confusing. How could Jesus go 40 days without food, but then curse an innocent fig tree because there was no breakfast on it! Was Jesus overreacting punishing a fig tree whose time for figs had not arrived? Who picks on a plant! He was hungry - Later He would be thirsty – but why waste supernatural energy cursing a tree. Was Jesus hungry or angry?
Pay attention here – because this is Jesus’ only miracle of destruction Why?
Mark 11:19-25 When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city. 20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Two types of figs in this region
Early fig that had fruit when in full leaf in the spring of the year and regular figs that bore fruit later in the year. This fig Jesus and those around him knew to be of the early variety because it was in full leaf.
There is a direct link between the cursing of the fig tree and the cleansing of the temple. Jesus cursed the fig tree as parable, acting out the rejection of the Jewish Nation.
The entire 13th chapter of Mark details much of the destruction. While the disciples are marveling at the construction and apparent invincibility of the Temple, Jesus tells them that not one stone will be left on another. Every one will be thrown down.
While sitting on the Mount of Olives – with a perfect view of the Temple across the valley, some of the disciples ask “When will this happen? Any clues / signs you can tell us about?”
The clues Jesus gives seem to be intentionally vague, as if any age can find them fulfilled in their lifetime. Nations will battle nations; there will be wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines. This is just the beginning. For the most part, Jesus was speaking of days they would experience, a time in 70 AD when Rome would level Jerusalem. But He leaves them with a tantalizing bit of information about the “end times.”
Mark 13:32-37 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.