On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!”
“Poor little fig tree! What did it do to deserve to be condemned to die? It wasn’t even the season for it to have any figs. So what if Jesus was hungry?” This is how I used to feel when I read about Jesus cursing the fig tree in the gospel of Mark. However, I have come to gain a deeper understanding of these and the following verses of Mark 11.
Jesus says in John 15:1-2,5-6, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit….I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” There may be some branches of my life that need pruning, but I do not want to be cast out. So, I look to find out what kind of fruit I should bear. My answer is in Galatians 5:22-23, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” I would rather yield to my Heavenly Father’s pruning of the unfruitful branches of my life and allow for the growth of new fruit than to risk the curse of Jesus at the final judgment. I don’t want to be like the fig tree Jesus cursed.
In Rev. Cheryl Schang’s book entitled Heal Them All, she makes an application of the withering of the fig tree to physical healing. She points out that since the fig tree was not useful to Jesus, He cursed it to die. Her analogy is that we can curse a tumor or unnatural growth in our bodies to die because it is not useful to our bodies. Like cleansing the temple, we have authority in the name of Jesus to cleanse our bodies of sickness and spirits that do not allow us to function as temples of the Holy Spirit. (“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you?” – I Corinthians 6:19) This is definitely something for me to think about!
Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves; and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple. And He began to teach and say 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 robber’s den.”
According to notes I have read in the Life Application Bible, the withering of the fig tree is an acted-out parable of Jesus cleansing the temple which is recorded in further verses of Mark 11. The temple was supposed to be a place of worship but true worship was no longer taking place within the temple walls.
Jesus wanted spiritual fruit produced in the temple just as He wanted physical fruit produced by the fig tree. The leaves on the fig tree made it appear that fruit could be produced and the actions of these men in the temple looked good on the outside. However, Jesus saw more deeply into both the fig tree and the men’s actions inside the temple. Jesus wanted faith and fruit. If I relate this to my life, I need to look carefully at my life and evaluate if I am producing fruitful fruit for the Lord. If I appear to have faith without putting it to work in my life, I am like the fig tree that withered and died because of no fruit. Genuine faith means bearing fruit for God’s kingdom. James 2:17 says, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” As Jesus cleansed the temple, I want Him to cleanse my life of anything that hinders either my faith or my doing good works that would bless the Lord and further His Kingdom.
In the outer courts of the temple, doves were sold for sacrifices and money changers cheated people who needed currency exchanged so they could buy the sacrificial animals. An angry Jesus threw them out because this was not the purpose of the temple. Jesus came to offer salvation to both the Jews and the Gentiles and the outer court of the temple was where the Gentiles could come to worship. The actions of the dishonest men offended Jesus. This causes me look closely within myself to see what I may be allowing in my life that is crowding out my time of worship. Am I causing Jesus to become angry? Jesus wanted “His house” to return to being a house of prayer. Making a personal application, I search my heart to discover what might need overturning in my life to allow me to be a person of prayer.
In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered…. “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
Mark 11:20-22, 24
Reading further in the 11th chapter of Mark, I find out that the poor little fig tree did indeed die. It died because it did not produce edible fruit. The temple was cleansed because it did not produce spiritual fruit. However, Mark 11:22 reveals to me the solution for my being able to bear fruit for Him. I need to have faith in God. I need to believe in Him. If I have faith, then I will be fruitful in my prayer life according to verse 24. I will be a fruitful temple of the Holy Spirit.