Was Jesus Too Harsh in Cursing the Fig Tree?

As we progress through Passion Week, I cannot help but to ask this question about the events which took place on Passion Monday.

Jesus was returning to Jerusalem the day after His triumphal entry, and the Bible tells us that he went to look for fruit in a fig tree but He found none.

“When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”” Mark 11:13-14

At first glance one may be shocked at the fact that Jesus was looking for figs when it was not the season for figs as Mark states.  Do we have an illogical God? Why would Jesus look for fruit in this fig tree before its season?

The answer lies in some simple facts about the fig tree and its season of fruit.

1. The season for collecting figs began right after Passover, so they were just about to enter the season.  For that reason alone figs should have been present on the tree.

2. The fig tree produces its fruit before its leaves.  The fact that the tree was full of leaves indicates that fruit should have been present.

3. A clue is given in Mark 11:13 that attests to the expectation of the presence of fruit: “And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it.” The sign was the fact that the tree was in leaf.  The expectation is that the fruit must be present, hence the logical action to look for figs.

Everything that Jesus said and did had deep meaning, and such was the case with the cursing of the fig tree.

First, there is symbolic meaning here about those who appear to have the fruit of the Spirit in their lives, but they do not.  The result of hypocrisy is the presence of leaves not fruit.  Leaves are merely the advertisement for fruit in the case of the fig tree.  This must be a stern warning to all believers that if we have the Holy Spirit in us, we must also have the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit to bless others with it.

Second, the fig tree is a metaphor for the nation of Israel in the Old Testament.  The cursing of the fig tree may very well represent the judgement of God upon Israel for their fruitless faith or lack of faith. Israel was an idolatrous nation which repeatedly rejected God despite miraculous interventions by God on their behalf.  Even their godliness in the time preceding the coming of Christ was an empty exercise in ritualism and legalism.

Jesus cursed the fig tree because it did not produce fruit at the appropriate time.

But in the new covenant He sent us the Holy Spirit who lives in us… and if He lives in us we must produce fruit, because He will return one day and He will seek the fruit of His work.

And that glorious work we celebrate this Passion Week.

image credit

2 comments on “Was Jesus Too Harsh in Cursing the Fig Tree?

  1. excellent post. I have been following the biblical story of the passion week for the last few years- the day by day events, and it is such a blessing to meditate on all of the events packed into that last week before the crucifixion of Jesus.

  2. Thanks for the article on the parable of the fig tree. It reminds me of the verse that some will have a form of godliness, but deny its power (2 Tim. 3:5). You also mentioned that the fig tree is symbolic of Israel in the Old Testament, representing the judgment for their fruitless faith. After reading your article, it just revealed to me that the Pharisees looked righteous on the outside through (legalism / ritualism) but they had no fruit.

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