Mark 11: 12-21
“The 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!'”
Thanks for taking the time to read these articles. I was able to speak to another person who reads these on Rapture Ready, and I am thankful that they are read and hopefully help us all to be better servants of the Lord. For sure, researching these has helped me to see my needs before the Lord and strive to be a better servant. This account of the Fig Tree is repeated for us in Matthew 21: 18-22, and it is important that we make sure that we have the right context. This is the Passion week; Jesus has just entered the city of Jerusalem as the King, the Messiah seated on a donkey, and the Jewish kings were supposed to ride. See Genesis 49: 10-11:
“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk.”
King David rode a donkey (2 Samuel 16:2), and Solomon also rode a mule to his coronation (1 Kings 1:38-40). In Zechariah 9:9, we have this prophecy about Jesus:
“Rejoice greatly O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey.”
In Deuteronomy 17: 14-17, we see this instruction for the future kings of Israel, and it would appear that Solomon did not read this part, or if he did, he certainly ignored it:
“When you come to the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,’ you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again.’ Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.”
So, we can see that the kings of Israel were not allowed to have lots of horses, and from the very first mention of the King of Israel in Genesis 49, his mount was to be a donkey. This passion week that we are about to recall was a very serious time in Jesus’ life. This would be the last few days before He was crucified. There were a lot of emotions going on here amongst the disciples and the new church that Jesus had established. There were a lot of prophecies being fulfilled and just so much tension among the Jews and among those that were in attendance during the Passover week.
Israel was supposed to be God’s light to the world. He had made them a peculiar people, with laws like circumcision, not eating pork or shelled fish as well, and worshipping the one true and living God as opposed to the more prevalent polytheistic religions of the surrounding nations. But they wanted to be just like the other nations and copied their pagan religions that often included evil actions like polygamy and child sacrifice. The entire book of Judges is about Israel following after the pagan gods and rituals of their neighbors, followed by God’s judgment and then repentance. The idea was that Israel was to carry the light of God, the light of Jesus, to the world. But they did not do that; they did the very opposite. God put it this way in 2 Timothy 3:5:
“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”
We see God once again talking about this in Isaiah 29:13:
“Therefore, the Lord said: ‘Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men.'”
The nation of Israel, as we see all the way through the Old Testament, pretended in ritual to serve God, but on the inside, their hearts were dark and evil. Jesus called out the Pharisees this way, Matthew 23:27:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.”
This brings us to the account that we are looking at today; the cursed fig tree. Jesus is leaving Jerusalem and heading back to Bethany for the night. He was hungry, and He sees a fig tree with leaves sprouting. Usually, when the fig trees have leaves, they also have fruit. Jesus is God; He knows there are no figs there, but He is about to pronounce a curse that appears to be on the fig tree, but it is on Israel.
- The Fig Tree – Israel in Jesus’ Day
This was supposed to be a source of food. You should be able to expect the tree to have food once the leaves show up. Jesus, the one who created the fig trees, knew this. The picture that He was painting was that of Israel. They had spiritual leaves showing, like the Passover. They killed somewhere in the order of 250,000 lambs during the Passover celebration. They still had the Temple, the beautifully dressed High Priests, the supporting Priests. They still were known for Moses and Abraham. They were known by the Ten Commandments and the laws that governed them. They observed the Sabbath and all the laws that came with the Torah. But they denied God. They denied the Messiah about whom the entire Old Testament was written.
Jesus is the Passover Lamb; He is the Sin Offering; it is His blood that covers our sin; He is the Messiah of Isaiah 53, the one who judged Sodom and Gomorrah, the one who wrestled with Jacob, and on we can go. Yet, Israel did not carry the message of God and His salvation to the world. Instead, they hated Gentiles and despised them. They kept their secrets even from their own people, and many of the poor Israelites were despised by their own religious leaders. As you will recall, they hated Jesus and always questioned where He got the knowledge from.
Israel offered no spiritual food to the world around them. They, like this fig tree, had leaves, but the hungry could not find any kind of spiritual food to answer their hunger for salvation. All they found were rituals and superstition, to be honest. But there was no food, no salvation being offered. You will recall that Nicodemus, in John 3, was astonished about being ‘born again.’ He did not understand that we need to be completely reborn in Jesus to be able to enter Heaven. He thought, like many still today, that you could earn your place in Heaven. But the Bible clearly tells us that eternal life with God is a gift given to those who believe in Jesus as Savior (see Romans 6:23).
Israel and her religious leaders had the outside washed, but as Jesus said, they were dead inside, unable to help the other dead people around them. They offered the world a death cult that was clothed in nice things, that said nice things but did evil; they offered the world death forever in Hell. Some of the religious leaders, the Sadducees, did not even believe in the resurrection. What then did they have to offer? If all we have is this life, how sad are we?
Israel had been given the amazing task of taking the name and person of God, YHWH, to the world, and they failed. As a nation, not all of them obviously, but in general, they denied His power, surrendered the awesome privilege that was given to them, and failed miserably. This made way for the New Testament church; we are to take up the charge. Jesus left us with the Holy Spirit (see John 20 and Acts 2), and He gave us the Great Commission seen in Matthew 28:18-20:
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.”
So, the torch has been passed to the Gentile Church for the past 2,000 years. It has been our job to carry the Gospel to the world, and we went about it aggressively. By the end of the first century, the Gospel of Jesus had been carried to known ends of the earth, from Western Europe to Northern Africa to the Orient. Christianity popped everywhere; in every culture there were Christians. They met in homes, under trees, and just about wherever they could.
Today we still have missionaries carrying the torch. I know of churches being established under the trees in Northern Kenya, saved people being baptized in crocodile-infested rivers, and building galvanized steel church buildings to fend off the termites. I know of churches that, with loving enthusiasm, will descend on a city or town and share the Gospel for 4-5 days with hundreds in tow, all showing the love of Jesus.
There is fruit on these trees; people are getting saved, and the call to be like Jesus is real. The call to love your enemies and serve each other is real. The call for true Holy Spirit-led transformation into the image of Jesus is real, and we see it happening to lots of people. The call to love God wholeheartedly and to love your neighbor as yourself is being taught and practiced. Jesus is the Head of these churches; He and His Gospel are the focus. His substitutionary death for our sins, His burial, and His bodily resurrection are the messages for us. One way – Jesus.
- The Fig Tree- Many Modern Churches Today
Sadly, the same thing that happened to the nation of Israel is happening to a lot of churches today; they have a form of Godliness, but they deny His power. They have watered down or, at best, seriously polluted the pure and simple Gospel, the good news of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. They still sing songs about Jesus; they still have Bibles and even quote scripture, but then they wander off in a diatribe that forgets the Jesus that the Bible is built on.
These fruitless Fig Trees do not feed the hungry masses of the world — those looking for the answer to the sin inside; those looking for an answer to the emptiness inside; those who, if they heard the truth, would be moved by the Holy Spirit to act and repent. Oh, these fruitless churches don’t talk about repentance either; you just make mistakes, they say. But the Bible calls us sinners, persons who have fallen short of the perfection of God. We need proper Fig Trees that not only look like they have fruit but actually have fruit on them. The fruit of the person of Jesus; He and He alone is what the world needs. All pastors (even the celebrity ones) leave; they leave either by hearse or U-Haul, but they leave. If they have not focused the people on Jesus, then what reason do people have to stay?
I work in the car business, and often if you want to get a true look at how a person treated their car, you can check the trunk. It is the place that they often forget to clean if they spruced up the car. The same can be said often for restrooms at a restaurant. If the restrooms are clean even when they are busy, most likely the rest of the place is good. I want to ask about the Gospel at a church; what is it? Do you share it and encourage your people to share it? Are you involved in missions and exporting the Gospel to other places? Is faith in Jesus the ONLY way for someone to be saved? Can a person do enough good deeds to get to Heaven on their own without Jesus? These kinds of questions will indicate what kind of fruit this Fig Tree is offering or if it even has any fruit at all to offer. Sadly, many don’t.
People still need Jesus. People still need to be saved and born again into the Kingdom of Heaven. So, let me ask you and me, the persons who make up these churches, are we producing fruit to feed the hungry, lost souls around us? Or are we just religious people who are indifferent to the needs around us? We do not show the love of Jesus; we do not talk about Jesus nor His grace in our lives. We are unapproachable because we never show compassion, never exhibit empathy or the kindness that may draw people to Jesus. Or worse, we show these things, and when people get close, we still don’t speak of Jesus and His grace. We stand by and allow people to enter Hell, and we do nothing. We are fruitless Fig Trees.
Jesus cursed that Fig Tree that fateful day in Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago. One day He will come, and we will have to give an account of how we represented Jesus. May the Lord find fruit in our lives and fruit in our churches.
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church
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