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Why Did Jesus Curse the Fig Tree in Mark 11:12–14?

Fig trees were common as a source of food. Three years were required from planting until fruit bearing. After that, a tree could be harvested twice a year, usually yielding much fruit. The figs normally grew with the leaves. This tree had leaves but, strangely, no fruit. That this tree was along the side of the road (see Matt. 21:19) implies it was public property. It was also apparently in good soil because its foliage was ahead of season and ahead of the surrounding fig trees. The abundance of leaves held out promise that the tree might also be ahead of schedule with its fruit. That it was “not the season for figs” (v. 13) recognizes that the next normal fig season was in June, more than a month away. This phrase, unique to Mark, emphasizes the unusual nature of this fig tree.

Jesus’ direct address to the tree personified it and condemned it for not providing what its appearance promised. “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again” (v. 14). This incident was not the acting out of the parable of the fig tree (Luke 13:6–9), which was a warning against spiritual fruitlessness. Here, Jesus cursed the tree for its misleading appearance that suggested great productivity without providing it. It should have been full of fruit, but was barren. The fig tree was frequently an Old Testament type of the Jewish nation (Hos. 9:10; Nah. 3:12; Zech. 3:10)—and the barren fig tree often symbolizes divine judgment on Israel because of her spiritual fruitlessness despite an abundance of spiritual advantages (Jer. 8:13; Joel 1:12). In this instance Jesus used the tree by the road as a purposeful divine object lesson concerning Israel’s spiritual hypocrisy and fruitlessness, exemplified in the rejection of their Messiah. It was not an impetuous act of frustration as some have stated.

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Fig Tree Matt


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