The Cursed Fig Tree

Mark 11:12 -20 reads:

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. 15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” 18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. 19 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!”

Why did Jesus curse a fig tree for not bearing figs when it was not the season for bearing figs?  The way Mark couches the story of the fig tree and the cleansing of the Temple is what is known as a Markan sandwich, which is Mark’s way of letting the reader know that these events are related.  Clearly, the fig tree represents Israel, and the lack of figs represents a lack of spiritual fruit.

But the question remains, if it is not the season for figs, does this sign break down?  It seemed so to me until Dr. Jim Hamilton preached this sermon last Sunday at Kenwood Baptist Church on Jeremiah 24-25:14.  In Jeremiah 24, the Lord shows Jeremiah two baskets of figs that represent the people of Israel.  One, a basket of good fruit, represents those faithful to the Lord, the remnant.  The basket of bad fruit represents all those who have not heeded the words of the Lord or his prophet.  Listen to the sermon for a faithful exposition by Dr. Hamilton.

Jesus used the same imagery Jeremiah did.  In Jeremiah 17, it is written:

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

This passage is similar to Psalm 1, with a slight difference.  The tree rooted by streams of living water does not cease to bear fruit.  Are we trees that bear fruit unceasingly?  Or do we only bear fruit in season?

Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.

-Matthew 3:8


One thought on “The Cursed Fig Tree

  1. I always wondered why Jesus cursed this tree! Wonderful sermon by Dr. Hamilton. May I believe and act on the Word of God and bear fruit unceasingly! Love your art too — what a good reminder of this lesson.



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