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Why did Jesus curse the fig tree?

Why did Jesus curse the fig tree?
Fig Tree

Mark 11:13-14, 21.

Sometimes Jesus says things we find confusing or even disturbing. We need to think about what He said and read the passages around His words to find out what He is saying. Or we have to read the whole gospel to get it. That is the case with the story of the fig tree in Mark chapter 11.

What is that story? In Mark 11:1-22 we read about the “Triumphal Entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem and the cleansing of the temple. We celebrate the Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday. Stuck in the middle of it is the following passage about a fig tree.

13 Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples were listening…21 Being reminded, Peter said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.” Mark 11:13-14, 21

What is going on here? It is not the season for figs, and this poor tree just happens to be in the way and gets cursed by God. This sounds odd, or even terrible. However, when we start looking around in the gospels, things start to make more sense. How? Let’s go see.

Back in the parable of the sower in Mark chapter 4, we read about the seed sown on good soil: “And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” Mark 4:20

Jesus expects those who hear His words to act on them and bear fruit, in other words, to multiply and grow. This means more than adding people to church (although it includes that). It means we are to grow in God’s grace and spread the hope of the gospel. This is for all of us, not just a few “anointed” leaders.

Jesus gives us the power (which transcends mere ability) to accomplish this. He tells us about this power in Acts 1:8: “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth”. Jesus is speaking to all the members of the church, and the power of the Holy Spirit is coming upon all believers. This power is to be a witness for Jesus, or, in the terms of Mark 4, to bear fruit.

So, what about the fig tree? Jeus is telling us that it is always the season to bear fruit. Opposing this is all of nature which says no, this is not the time. Our society tells us to keep quiet and not preach, that “we don’t need your religion”. All the world, and maybe even some in the church at large, are saying no, not you, not now. Jesus is having none of it. He is saying “Yes, you!” and “Now, and always!”

While this may be terrifying, we do not have to be afraid. We can be ministers of the gospel. We can bring the hope we have because of the gospel to all people. There are as many ways to bear fruit as there are people in the church. This is about life producing more life, and that is always in season.

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