DAY TWO of the Week of the Passion-The Barren Fig Tree and A Fruitless Nation
Jesus Curses a Fig Tree and Clears the Temple Courts
12The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.
15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.”
18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
19 When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.
20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
It was the day after Jesus had been welcomed with palm branches and singing,” Hosanna, Hosanna, in the highest.” Jesus had gone to the temple the day before but because it was late in the evening he returned to Bethany to spend the night at Lazarus’ home. Waking early in the morning was Jesus custom for prayer and fellowship with His heavenly Father. He begins His journey back to Jerusalem from Bethany. Having been to the temple the day before, He knew what was ahead of Him. He had seen what was going on at the temple. Israel was in the same condition as it had been three years earlier when he had cleansed the temple of the money changers making His house a “robbers den”. (John 2:13-17) That morning the Bible tells us He was hungry and saw the tree in the distance had leaves on it.
The fig trees in that area would have fruit come out before the leaves would appear so Jesus seeing that the tree had leaves knew that the tree should have fruit. Jesus never wasted a teaching moment. The fig tree would be the illustration of what was to come of Israel because of their unfruitfulness. It was not out of anger that Jesus cursed the tree. It was a picture for the disciples of judgment to come.
Bethany was an area well known for its fig trees. The village name means “house of figs”. These trees were not bushes as we are accustomed to seeing. These are tree that grow large and have much shade. Remember Nathaniel was under the shade of the fig tree when Jesus saw him.
The fig tree is a symbol of the nation of Israel. Old Testament scripture used the metaphor of the fig tree to illustrate Israel spiritual health many times.
Judgment is coming! Israel has rejected their Messiah! They have been an unfruitful nation after being given chances to repent repeatedly.
Now Jesus will enter Jerusalem, go to the temple and bring swift judgment to the retail market set up in the very place of worship, fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy from Hosea 9:10 “When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the wilderness. I viewed your ancestors like an early fig on a fig tree in its first season. Then they came to Baal-Peor and they dedicated themselves to shame – they became as detestable as what they loved.” Jeremiah 8:13 “‘I will take away their harvest,
declares the Lord.
There will be no grapes on the vine.
There will be no figs on the tree,
What I have given them will be taken from them.’”
Jesus tells the disciples the parable of the vineyard to illustrate Israel’s barren unfaithfulness.
The owner of the vineyard had been patient with the fig trees. Now judgment would come. Isaiah 5:1-7 gives the prophecy and it is fulfilled in Luke 13:6. “Then Jesus told this parable: A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 So he said to the worker who tended the vineyard, ‘For three years now, I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and each time I inspect it I find none. Cut it down! Why should it continue to deplete the soil?’ 8 But the worker answered him, ‘Sir, leave it alone this year too, until I dig around it and put fertilizer on it. 9 Then if it bears fruit next year, very well, but if not, you can cut it down.’”
Jesus had told this parable and the time had come to uproot the barren tree.
John the Baptist prophesied that this time would come. Matthew 3:10 New International Version (NIV) 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
After cleansing the temple of the money changers, Jesus and his disciples head back to Bethany. When they pass the fig tree, Peter says, “Look, Rabbi! The fig tree you cursed has withered.” (Mark 11:19)
God is never satisfied with unfruitfulness. He desires that you bear much fruit. Israel repeatedly failed to be a fruitful vine. But…. we fail and are just as bad as the children of Israel.
Jesus desires that our lives are full and fruitful. In order to be fruitful, we must be connected to the true vine Himself.
John 15:8 “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples”
We must guard that we are not like the fig tree with lots of leaves that give the appearance of fruit or as Israel was with all their religious rules and traditions. Both the fig tree and the nation of Israel were barren even though they looked right.
Remember in Genesis when Adam and Eve found they were naked? They made their clothes out of fig leaves! What a picture from the very beginning of man’s effort to cover himself with something that would be used by Jesus to symbolize barrenness and self effort.
This week pray God will convict hearts of the barren, fruitless lives which all of us find ourselves in so many times.
May this Passion Week Enliven our Passion for Fruitfulness!
Kari Jobe- The More I Seek You