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.

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Jerusalem, the Intoxicating Drink

A cold and continuous war with occasional hot and deadly eruptions has been going on in the Middle East since 1948. Since the re-institution of its state, Israel has been in continuous conflict with its neighbors.

In a Christian world view, Jerusalem is the epicenter of the World as described in the Bible, and this is evident as religious and secular forces are battling for its control.  All three major religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, claim a stake in this historic city.  Secular forces including the secular state of Israel and terrorist organizations are also fighting over it.

In the last week, close to one thousand Hamas rockets have been fired indiscriminately over civilians in Israel and Jerusalem. Israel responded by targeting the source of the rockets and military targets in Gaza while trying their best to avoid civilians.

Why is Jerusalem so important that everyone wants a piece of it?  Why is Israel isolated like this?  Even its last ally, the United States is showing cracks in its long support for Israel.

The answer is found in Scripture and it has to do with Israel’s hardening and their rejection of the Messiah.

Jesus lamented in Matt 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!  How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”

As a result of their hardening of heart God proclaims in Zechariah 12:2 “I will make Jerusalem like an intoxicating drink…”  And God continues:  “On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the people.  All who lift it will surely hurt themselves.  And all the nations of the earth will gather against it.”

Jerusalem will become a trap for all those who want to take it from Israel because God promised the father of the Jewish nation, Abraham that “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse” (Gen 12:3).

But divine punishment against Israel for his disobedience will not last forever.  In God’s redemptive plan, the Jewish nation will one day come back to the One Messiah whom they have rejected, Jesus Christ, as explained by Paul in Romans 11:

“25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.

26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

“The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.

27 And this is my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”

28 As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs,

29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.

30 Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience,

31 so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you.”

Until the redemption of Israel is here our duty is to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.