While the rest of the nations—the other fig trees—are not yet in season, this one tree is “in leaf.” And both Matthew and Mark, by “sandwiching” the fig tree episode, focus the lens on where it will all transpire: Jerusalem. 36:8). 9:10–17)—but he finds “no first-ripe fig that my soul desires.” So in two exiles (Assyrian and Babylonian), God pours out the curse of barrenness (Hos. Israel’s fruitfulness (literal or otherwise) is not the basis of their relationship with God, for it is God who gives fruitfulness (Deut. Jesus has pursued the children of God with compassionate seriousness (Luke 13:34). 21:18–22; Mark 11:12–14, 20–25). 10:35–37), which helps conceptualize their relationship to God: as his own special planting, they must yield spiritual fruit as his covenant people (Ps. The fig tree which you cursed has withered” (Mark 11:12-14, 20-21). 17:2–10; 19:10–14). The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. This isn't the first time that Scripture has used fig trees as symbols for Israel. I believe Jesus cursed the tree as an object lesson with a double purpose. In fact, it was often done in an attempt to communicate something severe. Seeing a fig tree by the road, He went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Why Don’t the New Testament Authors Explain the Trinity? (Mark 11:20-22) Now it probably seems strange that Jesus cursed a tree just because he was hungry and was disappointed, but we’d be missing out on what Jesus was teaching His disciples if we didn’t look closer. Soberingly, this passage does not just remind us that a Christian by definition must produce spiritual fruit (even if only small early figs). In this inverted miracle we see precisely the stakes not only of failing to produce fruit, but of giving a fruitful impression and failing to back it up. Israel’s fruitfulness (literal or otherwise) is not the basis of their relationship with God, for it is God who … And Peter remembered and said to him, “Master, look! Its foliage signals that it should have early figs. Israel is to be cursed because it “bears no fruit” by not welcoming the Messiah — but clearly the tree here isn’t being given the choice to bear fruit or not. Everything is lining up. Jesus returned to the fig tree and the account given by Mark is says “ On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. A lack of fruitfulness is a sign of God’s curse for their rebellion (Deut. 27:6). Two Lessons of the Fig Tree 9:9). 19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Matthew 21:17-22 : Jesus Curses the Fig Tree (Gospel of Matthew) Study the Inner Meaning 17 And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there. Learn Religions uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. Did the tree that Jesus cursed wither immediately or overnight? When Jesus cursed it, He performed a symbolic act in the spirit of Jeremiah (Jer. 21:20–22). What’s worse—our leaves may even fool us. A church’s leaves may look impressive: booming attendance, capital campaigns, clever pastors, impressive music. 3:14; 5:1–7; Jer. The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. The Passover celebration, the tumult, the crowds, the singing—it’s all a show. Instead, Jesus is making a larger point about Jewish religious traditions. Then he cleanses the Temple, itself a symbolic judgment of the religious leaders. Don’t Outsource It. Many things can masquerade as the real thing but fail upon closer inspection. Please make sure all fields are filled out. By using Learn Religions, you accept our, The Meaning of Jesus Cursing the Fig Tree, Jesus Cleanses the Temple (Mark 11:15-19), Book of Daniel From the King James Version of the Bible, Jesus's Lesson of the Withered Fig Tree (Mark 11:20-26), Jesus' Entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-11), Holy Week Timeline: From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection, Jesus Heals the Blind Bartimeus (Mark 10:46-52), Jesus on How the Rich Get to Heaven (Mark 10:17-25), Jesus Blesses Little Children (Mark 10:13-16). Immediately: Matthew 21:19, “Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered. Austin Cline, a former regional director for the Council for Secular Humanism, writes and lectures extensively about atheism and agnosticism. “Rabbi, see!” he exclaims, “the fig tree that you cursed has withered.” —Mark 11:21. The fig tree cursing, an enacted parable of sorts, is also a sober warning for us today—in at least two ways. 1:3; Jer. Except there’s no fruit. The first is that this incident is an example of the common Marcan theme of apocalyptic determinism. First, Jesus curses the fig tree. The second meaning we can gleen from the fig tree being cursed is told to us by Jesus himself a few verses after his miracle is recorded. It is a fig tree, full of leaves, which would suggest fruitfulness. And it’s not being punished. En route from Bethany over the Mount of Olives toward Jerusalem, Peter notices the tree that Jesus cursed the previous morning. And the Jewish crowds—gathering to celebrate God’s past act of redemption (Passover/exodus)—have just hailed Jesus as “king” while he leads a new exodus on a meaning-laden donkey (Zech. The leaves gave the appearance of fruit but, in reality, it was empty. A bowl full of limes holding out the promise of gallons of limeade, only decorative. And that made it all the worse. The relevance of the cursing of the fig tree is closely related with the other events taking place at that time. Jesus and the disciples return to Bethany in the evening; likely it's too dark to see the tree. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown in 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. Jesus Curses the Barren Fig Tree by Damien F. Mackey “It has puzzled people for generations why Jesus was so upset with a fig tree that by nature should not have had figs or leaves…”. Or will he find figs, too? The time had come for God’s people to yield fruit that would bless the world (Isa. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered. Greg Lanier (PhD, Cambridge) serves as associate professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. Israel’s fruit will now be harvested; blessing will now pour forth. It lacked fruit. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, look! Jackpot. On the surface, it’s an object lesson on the power of faithful prayer (Matt. What should we learn from this peculiar scene? The fig tree isn’t a moral agent. They will be instruments by which Israel is transformed—when the Jewish nucleus of Christ-followers extends branches worldwide and brings forth fruit from all nations (beginning in Acts). In the morning, as he travels from Bethany, he spots a fig tree “in leaf.” At this point in late spring, most fig trees haven’t developed mature fruit (Mark 11:13). 20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. Instead, Jesus is … The cursing of the fig tree is an incident in the gospels, presented in Mark and Matthew as a miracle in connection with the entry into Jerusalem, and in Luke as a parable. The cursed fig tree is connected to Jesus’ actions in the temple. When the disciples ask Jesus to explain what just transpired, he pivots and talks about prayer. The fig tree symbolizes Israel. The fig tree cursing is not just about historical Israel. Resurrected Saints and Matthew’s Weirdest Passage, Greg Lanier on Teaching 1 Corinthians (Part 2). Jesus enters God’s house of prayer and finds it a “den of robbers” (Mark 11:17). He saw… So upon inspecting the fruitless tree, Jesus pours out divine judgment via two sign-acts: the future-pointing act of cursing the temple, and the enacted metaphor of cursing the tree. Israel is cursed by God not because of something they willfully chose, but because it’s necessary for the apocalyptic story to play out. 11:17). 3:14; 5:1–7; Jer. But this tree was entirely barren. Then He said to it, ‘May you never bear fruit again!’ Immediately the tree withered.” vv18-19. JESUS: THE DESIRE OF ALL THE AGES Part 64 - Cursing the Fig Tree By Larry Chambers The story for this column is found in Matthew 21:18-21; Mark 11:12-21. Upon reaching the tree, all He finds are leaves; the tree had produced no fruit. So Jesus cursed the tree: "Let no one eat fruit from you ever again" (vs 14). There can be no apocalyptic battle between good and evil if the Jews welcome Jesus. We are taken aback; this seems stunningly out of character for Jesus, the child-welcomer, compassionate healer, and storm-calmer. 3:17). 17:8–10). Thus, instead of merely cursing and killing a lowly fig tree, Jesus is saying that Judaism itself is cursed and will die off — “dry up at the roots,” as a later passage explains when the disciples see the tree the next day (in Matthew, the tree dies immediately). Jesus Curses a Fig Tree (Matthew 21:18-22) 18 Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Matthew the apostle wrote about Jesus, “in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered, and in chapter twenty-one and verse nineteen of his book, Matthew shares how Jesus did not see any fruit on a fig tree and said, “let no fruit grow on you henceforward for ever” where we read:. It’s another thing to lack it while pretending you have it. Then the disciples come back and notice the tree is withered. In fact, the mandate that God’s people bear spiritual fruit has actually intensified in the new era, not weakened (John 4:36; 15:2–16; Rom. Mark isn’t trying to tell his audience that Jesus was angered at not having figs to eat — this would be very strange, given that he would have known that it was far too early in the year for that. It lacked fruit. The tree stood all alone in a conspicuous situation by the roadside, as if courting observation. Jesus cursed the fig tree because it had the appearance of fruitfulness, but it was deceptive. As any agrarian Israelite knew, the firstfruits of the harvest belong to God (Ex. The eschatological restoration has arrived. 7:13; 28:4). Here are Brett McCracken’s picks for the best films and documentaries released in 2020—and where to watch them. Jesus knew His time was short. Jesus enters Jerusalem amid exultation from the masses gathered for Passover. Light bulbs would’ve immediately gone on in the minds of Jesus’s disciples as he reenacted Israel’s history by cursing the fig tree. With this web of background images, light bulbs would’ve immediately gone on in the minds of Jesus’s disciples as he re-enacted Israel’s history by cursing the fig tree. 12:10; Ezek. The entire 13th chapter of Mark details much of the destruction. With that expectation, Jesus inspects the tree. 23:19; Neh. Jesus's way of saying that the whole nation had become spiritually barren before the Lord The fig tree, like the bustling temple courts during Passover, was putting on a good show. The fig tree, once again, has failed. Jesus cursed the fig tree as parable, acting out the rejection of the Jewish Nation. We didn’t go to movie theaters much in 2020, but good movies were still released. Why? The fig tree you cursed has withered" (Mark 11:20–21)! 8:13; Hos. 1:3; Jer. 23:19; Neh. God promises to one day replant Israel and produce healthy figs from her again (Joel 2:22; Amos 9:14; Mic. "He found nothing but leaves," says vs 13, "for it was not the season for figs." It’s also about the threat of and temptation toward false pretenses of fruit. Israel: God's fig tree. The next day, Jesus and the disciples passed the fig tree and saw that it had withered overnight, a surprising contrast. Verse 19. When Jesus approached Jerusalem, He saw that the fig tree had leaves, a good sign of the presence of fruit. 21:18-21; Mark 11:15-17, 20-25) presents a particular challenge to interpretation, since as “the only miracle of destruction in the canonical Gospels” 1 it seems out of step with the profoundly constructive nature of Jesus’ ministry. All leaves, no fruit. In Mark's account, Jesus cursed the fig tree on His way to clear the temple. 5:22; Phil. As any agrarian Israelite knew, the firstfruits of the harvest belong to God (Ex. The Gospel Coalition supports the church by providing resources that are trusted and timely, winsome and wise, and centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ. By cleansing the Temple and cursing the fig tree, causing it to whither and die, Jesus was pronouncing His coming judgment of Israel and demonstrating His power to carry it out. Why should Christians harbor warm feelings towards Jews when they and their religion have been cursed for not bearing fruit? Specifically: it was not the time for Jewish leaders to “bear fruit,” and therefore they would be cursed by God never to bear any fruit ever again. It also teaches the principle that religious profession and observance are not enough to guarantee salvation, unless there is the fruit of genuine salvation evidenced in the life of the person. A few days later, Jesus confronts the root of corruption itself in a garden on a high place. That is, … 29:17). Jesus had arrived in Jerusalem during the time of the Passover. But what will the Lord find upon close inspection? 3:8–10; 7:16–20; 13:8; Luke 3:7–9). It’s about us. At a distance, Jesus sees a fig tree with leaves, and being hungry, He approaches it hoping to find some fruit, since a fig tree often produces figs earlier than it produces foliage. “And as they [Jesus and His disciples] passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away from the roots. It’s one thing to lack fruit out of season. Our personal lives can look like “in leaf.” Our leaves may look like those of a supermom, a winner, a perfect family, an A-team Christian with an overstuffed schedule of ministry activities. The Old Testament expectation that God’s covenant people bear fruit did not wither on that road between Bethany and Jerusalem when that poor fig tree met its expeditious fate. Copyright © 2021 The Gospel Coalition, INC. All Rights Reserved, Affiliate disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases on Amazon.com.Â. 4:4; Zech. 12:11; Jas. He is also an associate pastor at River Oaks Church (PCA). There is a sense of bad advertising by the tree in this passage. 1:11; 4:17; Heb. Will he find only leaves? 23 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. The tree bears no fruit because it is not the season and Israel does not welcome the Messiah because that would contradict God’s plans. And Peter calling to remembrance said unto him [Christ], ‘Rabbi, behold, the fig tree which you cursed is withered away’” (Mark 11:20-21). But the root may be withered. Why would this be Jesus’ only miracle in the environs of Jerusalem? Why Did Jesus Command Others to Be Silent About Him? The next morning (presumably Tuesday of Passion Week) Jesus He saw a fig tree in the distance, and so went to the tree to see if He could find some fruit on it. Jesus curses the fig tree and the disciples hear him. Jesus Curses the Fig Tree. He lives in Oviedo with his wife, Kate, and their three daughters. And presently the fig tree withered away. There are two things to take note of here. The second thing to note here is that incidents like this in the gospels were part of what helped fuel Christian antisemitism. Shortly after that in Mark 12:1-12 and Matthew 21:33-46, Jesus tells the parable of the vineyard. One day at my mother-in-law’s house, they found a large tray full of them. Jesus in the Garden. And our churches can do the same. What sort of petulant individual would deliver a gratuitous, arbitrary curse? While the disciples are marveling at the construction and apparent invincibility of the Temple, Jesus tells them that not one stone will be left on another. Why should Jews be treated well when God has determined that they should reject the Messiah? Still, a fruitful fig tree in the offseason would display small, semi-edible fruits that would later ripen. The FAQs: Are Fetal Cells Being Used in COVID-19 Vaccines and Treatments? Did Christ, in a burst of temper, actually curse, i.e., use profanity, a fig tree? In reality the incident is meant as a metaphor for something larger — and worse. The account of Jesus cursing the fig tree during his final visit to Jerusalem (Matt. Jesus deals with this mismatch in a shocking episode in the Gospels: the cursing of the fig tree (Matt. In just two chapters, Jesus will call the Pharisees "whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness." In a shocking turn, Jesus curses the tree and makes it wither from the roots, never to yield fruit again. Mark, the author of the book, adds the comment that "it was not the season for figs" (). One of the more infamous passages in the gospels involves Jesus’ cursing of a fig tree for not having any fruit for him despite the fact that it wasn’t even the season for fruit. - When he saw a (μίαν, a single) fig tree in the way. 19:1–11). The larger meaning of this passage is revealed more fully by Mark in the following tale of the cleansing of the Temple. Throughout the Old Testament, Israel is described as God’s vineyard, tree, or planting (Judges 9:8–15; Isa. 12:10; Ezek. He knew He was going to be crucified in less than a week, but He still had much to teach His disciples. But why did Jesus cause the tree to wither? Should I Remain in a Job That Crushes My Spirit? My children recently became excited about limes when they learned they could sell limeade and make their riches. 18 Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. He cursed this tree because it had the appearance of fruitfulness, but it was deceptive. The fig tree withers, but the disciples have passed the tree and don't yet notice that it withered. 21:33–45). Several times the prophets describe God as inspecting Israel for “early figs,” as a sign of spiritual fruitfulness (Mic. It was a false appearance of bearing figs that caused Jesus to become irate with this tree! He is immediately disappointed. And, as Jesus teaches here, they will do this by the power of faithful prayer. But this particular tree draws Jesus’s attention because it already has a full covering of leaves. It’s about all the people of God throughout time. Large, richly green, beautiful limes—which they immediately started plundering. It’s not self-aware. 17:8–10). There may be no fruit of holiness and no intimacy with God. Lots of action, lots of bustle, but no righteousness. After Jesus had extended an extra year to the nation, its leaders had still not shown any fruit of repentance. He states, "For this reason I say to you, all the things that you ask when you are praying, believe that you will receive them, and they shall be given to you" (Mark 11:24, HBFV).. The fruitless fig tree draws us back to prior points in Jesus’s ministry, when God’s people were called to produce spiritual fruit (Matt. Except they were plastic. Throughout the Old Testament, Israel is described as God’s vineyard, tree, or planting (Judges 9:8–15; Isa. The next day while returning to Jerusalem, He became hungry. This foundational metaphor for Israel’s spiritual health vividly blooms in the prophetic era. Mark isn’t trying to tell his audience that Jesus was angered at not having figs to eat — this would be very strange, given that he would have known that it was far too early in the year for that. After His royal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus went to Bethany to spend the night. 20 And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away! The Meaning of Jesus Cursing the Fig Tree. God was bringing a just judgment on Jerusalem for becoming a false Eden. Thus the fig tree cursing is not just about historical Israel. The next morning, they return to Jerusalem along the same road. But all is not lost. 8:12; Ezek. 7:1; Jer. Matthew 21:19 and Mark 11:14, 20. Though they do not yet fully understand, they will be the new caretakers of God’s people (Matt. Insanely Normal Times: Why TGC Will Read Through the Bible Again in 2021, Matthew: Jerusalem → Fig tree → Jerusalem, Mark: Fig tree → Jerusalem → Fig tree. The fig tree you cursed has withered!”. He was to be received as King and His followers … Leaves, but no fruit. Rather, the fig tree is an obvious reference to Israel’s spiritual sterility. Someone Will Catechize Your Kids in 2021. “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. It’s an early bloomer. 10:35–37), which helps conceptualize their relationship to God: as his own special planting, they must yield spiritual fruit as his covenant people (Ps. Therefore, they must reject him so that the message can more readily spread to the Gentiles. But as He approached the tree, He saw that it was barren. 9:16), and Israel becomes a rotten fig (Jer. All expectation, no satisfaction. Not to earn God’s gardening affection—but to yield that which he has (re)made us to do. It’s about us. 1:13; 6:21; Gal. 17:2–10; 19:10–14). But more is going on behind the scenes. But all is not lost. Jesus Curses the Fig Tree “Early in the morning, as He was on His way back to the city, He was hungry. 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