The Fig Tree And Jesus’ Curse
In life, it is easy to inspect something and know if it is functioning the way it should. For example, if we go to buy a car and it looks beautiful, we still wouldn’t buy that car without making sure it functions the way it should. You would start the car, look underneath, and inside, and make sure it drives, as it was designed to do. In Mark 11 Jesus inspected the fig tree in the Bible and found nothing on it.
“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. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it. And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching.
And when evening came, they went out of the city. And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”Mark 11:13-19, 21-25 ESV
Jesus and the Fig Tree in the Bible
“When Jesus came to the fig tree, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.” In this passage in Mark, Jesus curses a fig tree and flips over tables in the temple. At first glance, this might not make sense to us. It invites the question, “why would Jesus curse a fig tree for not producing fruit, during a season when it was not supposed to produce fruit?” This is like saying to a pregnant woman at three months, “why didn’t you birth your child yet?” After Jesus curses the fig tree, He goes into the temple and begins to overturn tables. Why did He do this? Was he being unkind or having a bad day? What is the purpose of this? Remember Jesus was teaching His people as he was flipping tables! Mark 11:17. “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations? But you have made it a den of robbers.” Jesus declares strong teaching by demonstration, making the point that the people were not doing what they were purposed to do. They were denying access to the presence of God by trading, corruption, and even prostitution. The nation of Israel was purposed to be an access point for people to find God and the temple was a space where people could come in, find God, and pray. This both angered Jesus and saddened him. It is consistent in the Gospels to see that Jesus was upset with those that hindered others from finding God.
Again, Jesus’ physical demonstration shows us that they were not doing what they were created to do! And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” Peter points out that when Jesus cursed the tree, it died. The shocking part of this is that in the Mediterranean area fig trees produce figs in season, but out of season, they produce figlets, which are tasty nodules. When Jesus saw none of these, he cursed the tree for he knew if it didn’t produce nodules, it wouldn’t produce figs either. He was putting an end to the fig trees’ life because it was useless.
Why did Jesus Curse the Fig Tree
Aha! We can see here that the tree only looked like it was serving its purpose for that season, but it was not. Jesus cursed something that was already cursed and put an end to it. He was calling out the fig tree for what it was. Jesus’ lesson of the fig tree in the Bible was to teach His disciples that just as the fig tree was not performing in its function, the people of Israel especially at the temple were also not functioning in what they were created to do. Jesus equally dismissed the temple in that part as useless. This fig tree in the Bible is a symbol of Israel, and by cursing it, Jesus is indicating his judgment on the nation.
Later in the New Testament, we read that we as believers corporately are the temple and that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit.
What is our function, as the people of God, the temples of the Holy Spirit? What is our mission? We don’t just try to look like we are fulfilling our purpose, we want to truly operate for that purpose! We must be a car that runs and doesn’t only look like a Ferrari on the outside. Lord, help us to be a Church that doesn’t just look the part. Our calling is not to be busy with things that don’t matter, or things that take advantage of people, it is to be busy with the mission Jesus gave his disciples. That mission is the work of God’s Kingdom.
Let us produce figs and figlets. Let us produce what we were meant to produce. This is producing a community for the Kingdom, making disciples, and ambassadors for Christ. We need to be reaching the unreached. Jesus said to go into all the world and reach every one of them! If the Church is not reaching the world, it is a den of robbers just like the people doing business in the temple. What was the proper function of that part of the temple? Prayer! It was to be a house of prayer for all the nations. But they weren’t praying! They were trading and doing just about anything else.
“Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
The Scene of the Fig Tree in the Bible
The scene here moves from the fig tree that wasn’t functioning the way it should, to the temple that wasn’t a house of prayer for all nations, or anybody for that matter, to Jesus’ disciples praying in faith and power.
The temple wasn’t functioning as a house of prayer. How can we reach every tribe, nation, and tongue? By praying! Revelation 7:9 says, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands…”
Lord, help us to pray for the nations. This is how we are to function as Christ’s Church! Do we want to be a dead fig tree or a den of robbers? No. We want to be praying for the nations. If we are praying for the nations, God will tell us who to send, who to support, and where to go. Psalm 2:8, “Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.”
The word for “nations” is the Greek word Ethne. It’s where we get our English word “ethnic” from. When the Bible talks about nations, it is talking about every single ethnic group. The mission of God’s Kingdom is to take the Gospel to all distinct people groups on this planet. (Matthew 28:18-20, Matthew 24:14). But that doesn’t happen without praying for the nations.
We are not just praying; we are praying in power. ASK Him for the nations, ASK Him for your neighbor, community, and children. Jesus is talking about us giving access to prayer. What if instead of saying, “I will pray for you” We said, “Can I pray for you right now?”
One final note of encouragement is to forgive. I once heard a preacher say, “unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Please forgive those who have hurt you, abandoned you, or offended you.
A Prayer For the Lesson of the Fig Tree and the Temple
Lord, I pray right now that we would do what you do, Jesus. We want to be a house of prayer. We want it to be like a fig tree that blooms with both figlets and figs. We pray that you would come and give us a new spirit of intercession, that carries into our neighbors, loved ones, communities, and nations. Thank you that we have the authority from you to pray for people right now and to expect something to happen! Lord Jesus, help us not be people who block access to you, but I pray that we would be an access point to you. Let us be the light. Help us to function in the way we are supposed to. We ask to do what we were purposed to do today. Let us do it. Let us pray for the nations. Raise intercessors that wear out their knees from praying for the nations!
Lord, raise up intercessors that go before those that are preaching the gospel. We give you glory and honor, in Jesus’ name. We proclaim faith in you, God! We believe that we will receive as we pray according to your name. We ask right now for the nations as an inheritance. Come turn over the tables in our hearts. Those tables that are hindering your purpose in our lives, turn over the tables! Anything that is not from you. We don’t want anything to be an idol before you. Hurt, pain, bitterness, or even fear. We turn over the table of fear and replace it with the presence of your faith. If it is following the ways of the world, we pray for a renewed mind in Jesus’ name. Whatever that table is, turn it over. Whether that is unforgiveness, turn it over. Let us forgive those that have abandoned us, because you have not abandoned us, Jesus. Thank you, Father. Turn those tables over. We trust that you are doing amazing work in us and that you will be faithful to complete it. Amen.