Summary: Jesus approached a fig tree expecting to find fruit, but it only had leaves. While it looked promising from a distance, looks were deceiving. Are we bearing fruit or just showing pretty leaves and blooms?
The Barren Fig Tree
Mark 11: 12-14; 20-21
Our text today follows Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. He had begun what most consider the Passion Week, the final days leading up to His crucifixion on Calvary’s hill. Most agree these events would have taken place on Monday morning of that faithful week.
This passage centers on Jesus’ disappointment regarding a fig tree. Since it had not produced desired fruit, Jesus pronounced judgment on the tree, causing it to wither and die. Those who accompanied Jesus that morning likely were unaware of the significance of this event. Often in Scripture Israel was represented by a fig tree. Knowing He would be rejected and crucified with the consent of unbelieving Jews, Jesus revealed the judgment that would come upon Israel for their rejection of Jesus as the Christ.
This text was written primarily for the nation of Israel, but there is application for all in these verses. Those who claim to follow Christ are expected to bear fruit. In fact, fruit will always be present in the lives of those who have been transformed by Christ. The Lord examines our lives, expecting to find fruit. When fruit is produced, there is blessing; when fruit is lacking, there is judgment and chastening. As we examine the details of this passage, I want to consider: The Barren Fig Tree.
I. The Lord’s Anticipation (12-13a) – Here we discover the anticipation of Jesus as He made His way back into Jerusalem that morning. Consider:
A. His Hunger (12) – And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry. This is a simple statement, one we wouldn’t think much of at times, but it reveals significant truth. As Jesus journeyed from Bethany to Jerusalem, we discover that He was hungry. This was the eternal God, the Sovereign of the Ages, King of kings and Lord of lords, and yet He was hungry. In this we catch a glimpse of the humanity of Jesus. While He was fully God, He was also fully man. He felt the same physical needs and emotions as all men. In fact, there will be many glimpses of the humanity of Jesus in the coming passages. We will discover His great love for friends in Bethany, His compassion and commitment to the disciples within the Upper Room, the agony and great burden He felt in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the unimaginable sufferings of the cross. We serve one who has felt our pain and experienced the difficulties of human life. He knows where we are and how to provide for our needs! Heb.4:15 – For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
B. His Hope (13a) – And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon. As they journeyed, Jesus saw a fig tree in the distance, which brought hope that He might find some figs to eat. Again, we see the humanity of Jesus. Being hungry, the anticipation of ripe figs brought hope for some nourishment.
Clearly Jesus had power to create whatever He needed. He had proven His power over creation, calming the raging seas. He had proven His ability to provide nourishment in the wilderness, multiplying bread and fish on two separate occasions. He even had power over death, having raised the widow’s son at Nain, and Lazarus from the dead. This was not a situation that was in any way out of His control, but Jesus chose at times to limit Himself. I know it is difficult for us to comprehend, but Jesus laid aside some of His divine prerogatives as He came to earth in the form of a man. He never lost any of His deity, but He did choose to hide His glory and submit to specific limitations. He did all of this so He could identify with us and the struggles we endure.
II. The Lord’s Dissatisfaction (13b) – 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. Mark revealed the dissatisfaction of Jesus as He came to the fig tree. Consider:
A. The Disappointment – Keep in mind that although Jesus was God, He was also man. He was hungry that morning. The sight of a fig tree and the hope of a meal brought joy to His heart. As He approached the tree, He was quickly disappointed though. This fig tree had leaves; it looked promising, but there were no figs on this tree.
Mark stated that the time for figs had not yet arrived. This does not imply that Jesus was expecting anything out of the ordinary, or that He was limited in His wisdom. In fact, Jesus had every reason to expect to find figs on this particular tree at this time. While figs were more prominent at other times of the year, it was not unusual to find early figs at this time. Consider the thoughts of Dr. Alan Carr: