“He was hungry: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.” (Mark 11:12-14)
Many detractors of our Lord have pointed with glee to what on the surface seems like a fit of petty anger on Christ’s part, spawned by His selfish appetite. In reality, it was probably unrealistic to expect figs at that time of year, a fact that He must have known quite well.
Perhaps the key to the whole passage is in the fact that “his disciples heard it.” When we look at the surrounding passages, we see that Christ was using the barren fig tree to teach His disciples something they desperately needed to know. This might be called a living parable.
Our Lord had just come from His triumphal entry into the city, having been proclaimed as King by the multitude (vv. 7-11), knowing their shallow adoration would soon turn into cries for His death. Leaving the fig tree, he drove the money changers from the temple grounds, having recognized that they were not only exploiting all the Jews who entered but had taken over the court of the Gentiles, using it as a shortcut through town (v. 16) and a place of business (v. 15), thus denying the possibility of true worship to all, both Jews and Gentiles.
The fig tree was an object lesson on barrenness, typifying the Jewish nation’s condition in spite of their privileged heritage. This type of hypocritical fruitlessness receives condemnation (vv. 20-21), exhibits a lack of faith (vv. 22-23), and hinders our prayers (vv. 24-26).
Our desire must be to bear much fruit in our worship, in our faith, in our prayers, and in our lives. JDM