Some time ago I had preached a sermon on the fig tree that Christ had cursed. What did this tree represent? What was the significance behind its withering? What was the important part of the fig tree being “in leaf?” Many commentators link the fig tree with the nation of Israel; and they are rightly so because the Scriptures refer to Israel as a fig tree (Hos.9:10; Joel 1:7; Jer.24:3-5; Lk.13:6-9). Let us examine the fig tree passage:
“Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He [Jesus] was hungry. And seeing from afar off a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, ‘Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.’ And his disciples heard it” (Mark 11:12-14).
By reading this passage let us go into detail and “spiritualize” it as well as keep national Israel in mind. From a dual perspective this passage reveals that Israel’s Messiah came to her but she would not satisfy Him. She had all the signs of being devout, but when the Messiah came she rejected Him. From a personal angle we must learn a contemporary lesson.
We read that Jesus was hungry and saw a fig tree afar off with leaves on it. Let us recognize that when a fig tree is in leaf it is an indication that fruit is present. Figs began to grow before the leaves are full sprout. So when Jesus saw the fig tree in leaf He expected some fruit. But the Bible says that he found nothing but leaves, which tells us that hypocrisy is involved. Also, we find that the Gospel of Mark records: “for it was not the season for figs.”
Here we have a fig tree that stood out from among the rest in “appearance” but was as dead as the others. When the Messiah came to it He found deceit. This tree could boast only in leaf which communicates that it was at least capable of producing fruit. Picturing Israel, she had the Law and the Prophets, but no real spiritual fruit. She had the Temples, offered sacrifices, wore praised apparel, but had no true repentance at heart. But let not the Gentiles boast. Many so-called Christians open churches and call themselves pastors; and then somehow, they “graduate” to bishop and apostle, as if this were possible —totally ignorant of God’s Word. The only changes in their lives are their clothes bought with tithes and offerings.
As a result, Jesus cursed the fig tree so that it would not produce fruit anymore –not even in the true fig season. We must apply this to our spiritual life as well. Our outward workings should reflect the bona fide person on the inside least we be found a fruitless hypocrite and receive eternal damnation as reward.
Thus, let us worship our Jewish Messiah and feed Him when He’s hungry, cloth Him when He is naked, give Him water when He is thirsty, and visit Him if He’s in prison. Surely, our God comes to us today in the form people in need. Will they find relief in us?