“And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: 13 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. 14 And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it. 15 And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; 16 And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. 17 And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. 18 And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine. 19 And when even was come, he went out of the city. 20 And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. 21 And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away. 22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. 23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. 24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. 25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” Mark 11:12-26 (KJV)
IN THE FIG TREE JESUS SHOWS US THE FRUITLESSNESS OF A DEAD RELIGION AND CONFRONTS IT.
As Jesus and the disciples were leaving Bethany, back toward Jerusalem, Jesus spots a fig tree with leaves on it – advertising that it had fruit. When Jesus arrives there they discover it has no fruit. Jesus curses the fig tree. To some this may seem unnecessary for Jesus to have done, but it seems to me that there is a message we must hear and heed.
- “There was a voice in it for the JEWISH CHURCH. Rich in the leaves of a formal religion, but barren of all fruits of the Spirit, that Church was in fearful danger, at the very time when this withering took place. Well would it have been for the Jewish Church if it had had eyes to see its peril!”
- “There was a voice in the fig tree for all the branches of Christ’s VISIBLE CHURCH in every age, and every part of the world. There was a warning against an empty profession of Christianity unaccompanied by sound doctrine and holy living, which some of those branches would have done well to lay to heart.”
- “There was a voice in the fig tree for all the branches of Christ’s VISIBLE CHURCH in every age, and every part of the world. There was a warning against an empty profession of Christianity unaccompanied by sound doctrine and holy living, which some of those branches would have done well to lay to heart.” From J. C. Ryle commentary on Mark’s Gospel.
Dead religion offers nothing but leaves, and like the “fig leaves” which Adam and Eve tried to cover themselves with were inadequate, so are the “fig leaves” of a dead religion. In Scriptures the “Fig tree” often represents the nation of Israel and/or its religion (See Hosea 9:10; Nahum 3:12; Zechariah 3:10). It is somewhat intrigueing that we have Jesus’ strong words to this fig tree just before He enters the Temple compound and finds them “Buying and selling”. You will also notice that when Jesus and the disciples pass by the fig tree again that it is dead.
Why did Jesus “curse” the fig tree. First of all “it was not the season for figs” according to the text, but it had leaves, and most usually the leaves and the figs grew together. Secondly, by having leaves but no figs it was “advertising” it had fruit when it did not.
There are many people who do not believe that Jesus ever became angry. Those who think that must have never read of the two times Jesus cleansed the temple. He cleansed the temple once when He had just began His ministry three years prior to this, and then He does it again here. You can read about the first “Cleansing” in John chapter two, verses thirteen through seventeen.
Here is what was going on in the Temple compound. It was expected that the animals brought to the Temple for sacrifice would be inspected by the priest, but it had became a practice to find fault when there was no fault. It may have been something like this – A priest would say an animal was at fault then sell the owner of the “faulty” offering an “approved” offering, and then, he would sell this man’s animal as “approved” to someone else. Some people who travelled great distances may expect to buy a Temple approved offering at the Temple. It was nothing more than theft, and dishonesty that was taking place in the name of God. There was no holiness, righteousness, or godliness in the place. The “House of prayer” had been turned into a “Den of thieves”, and Jesus would not tolerate it.
The money changers would charge great fees for exchanging Greek and Roman monies for the Temple money. They made a great deal of profit by this deed, and took advantage of many poor people by the selling of doves for an extravagant profit.
The Church of the Lord Jesus this day needs to pay careful attention to this. The things of God are not for the making of profit. Using the name of God to attach a price on things is theft, and dishonors the name of the Lord. There are business men today who attend church so as to maintain a base for their business, and to keep a good name in the community they are in. Some will even try to conduct a little business in the church. There are some who think the church should be conducted like a business, when it is not a business, nor should it be conducted as such. It is the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and is to be conducted by His guidelines and for His purposes, and glory.
In looking at the fig tree this is how we could define “Dead religion” – 1. It offers much but delivers little; 2. It is cold and formal; 3. It seems alive by its much activity [its buying and selling], but God is not there; 4. Its leaves cover its fruitlessness, but not to God’s eyes.
In verses 20 through 26 Jesus gives us a lesson in faith. The fig tree He “cursed” the day before has already withered – it is dead. It was so dead that even its roots were dried up. “Have faith in God” is the statement Jesus issues to the disciples. It is faith in God that makes all things possible. Someone has said, “Where God guides, He provides”. Is that true. Yes! it is.
Faith is believing in what you cannot see, touch, smell, taste, or hear in the physical realm. You can see evidences of faith in God, for instance; the rising of the sun, and its setting; the order of the universe; the intricacies of the human body, and the bodies of animals as well; the singing of the birds; and all the other details of life. Faith believes in God, even when there is no possible way of something happening. Jesus’ words on prayer are strong, and is telling us to ask as if we have already received it “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Mark 11:24(KJV).
That is genuinely the prayer of faith. Believing you have received it before you do.
Notice the importance Jesus places on “Forgiveness”. Without forgiveness we cannot expect answer to our prayers. God is so good to forgive us, we ought also to forgive those whom we believe responsible for offending us.
Remember this, NO FORGIVENESS, NO ANSWER TO PRAYER. KNOW FORGIVENESS, KNOW ANSWER TO PRAYER.
-Tim A. Blankenship