WVW: What the Fig? - Mark 11:12-14
Ever been mad at a tree?
It’s Wednesday morning and I’m exhausted; I’m in desperate need for a cup of coffee. From a distance, I see the glowing pink and orange Dunkin Donuts logo at the corner gas station 4 blocks from my job. If I stop, I'm going to be late for work, but just thinking of drinking an iced caramel latte makes the attempt all the more worth it. I get there and I receive the fantastic news that their espresso machine is broken.
In utter disappointment, I cursed the Dunkin Donuts so that they can never sell coffee or donuts ever again.
Extreme? Yes, but that’s what they get for not getting me my coffee. Almost every American can relate to how important their morning coffee is.
As ridiculous as the aforementioned story sounds, in the books of Matthew and Mark, it seems like our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ had a similar experience with a fig tree.
Mark 11:12-14 (ESV)
Jesus Curses the Fig Tree
12 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.
Was Jesus throwing a temper tantrum?
As usual, in order to understand any verse of the Bible, it’s important to learn the context. Jesus was not throwing an unjust temper tantrum; Jesus was sending a message. The point of this passage is not to focus so much on the fig tree; Through the condition of the fig tree, Jesus was displaying the spiritual condition of Israel.
What did the fig tree have to do with Israel?
A fig tree is often used symbolically to represent Israel in scripture. Chronologically, Jesus had just made his highly anticipated arrival at Jerusalem, cleansed the Temple, and cursed the barren fig tree. Both the cleansing and the curse had relevance to the spiritual condition of Israel. With fig trees, the fruit always grows prior to the leaves. Like the fig tree appeared to have fruit on it because of the leaves Jesus saw from the distance, Israel was very religious outwardly with their sacrifices and traditions but showed no real fruit because of their sins. By cursing the fig tree, and killing it within days and not months, Jesus was displaying his divine power while declaring His warranted future judgement of Israel.
What does this mean for us?
Although this text was directly connected to Israel, there is a relatable message attached to it for us today. The lesson of the fig tree is that we should bear spiritual fruit, not just give an appearance of religiosity the way the fig tree gave an appearance of fruit. John 15: 5-8 says, "If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit." Israel’s hearts should have been ready to receive Jesus when He arrived, instead, their hearts were marinated in sin unprepared to accept the Savior of the world.
Is there fruit in your life presented to Jesus as praise and glory? Or are we just putting on a show for others while in reality, ignoring God’s inevitable judgement?