Mark 11:13-14 - Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.
Jesus’ time on earth is drawing to a close - down to the final days. He’s wrapping up business. And he comes with hunger to this tree, hoping for refreshment. But all he finds is disappointment.
And, so, too, was he disappointed with Israel’s teachers - men arrayed with beautiful dress and a religious show without any real fruit.
As Paul would describe people like them:
2 Timothy 3:5 - having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.
Jesus said of the Pharisees:
Matthew 23:27-28 - “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
The destruction of this lone, wild, roadside fig tree is possibly a symbol of his final rejection of the Pharisees.
Den of Robbers
It was Passover time - thousands and thousands of visitors to Jerusalem, many making the annual animal sacrifice required of them.
And the priests in Jerusalem had set up a business where travelers could buy spotless animals directly at the temple. Why bring one from home when you could get “priest-approved” sacrifices on site?
The religious leaders charged obscene prices for the animals and, on top of that, forced people to exchange money at terrible rates to buy anything. This is why Jesus “overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons” (Mark 11:15b).
Pigeons were the animal sacrifice of the poor who couldn’t afford sheep or goats or bulls.
Religious leaders thieving from broke pilgrims. Spiritual “guides” making money but utterly bankrupt. Fig trees with leaves and no fruit.
As Jesus disrupted the temple money-making machine:
he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”
At the end of Mark 10, just before Jesus curses the tree, Bartimaeus, a blind man, pleaded to see Jesus as he passed by. He asked to be healed and he was. And Jesus said to him, “your faith has made you well.”
Sitting by the roadside, was a tree with “life” that was withered.
And there sat Bartimaeus by the roadside, withered, yet restored to fullness.
Jesus can command trees to die. This could terrify onlookers, seeing a person with this much power:
Mark 11:20-21 - As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.”
Perhaps sensing fear in Peter:
Jesus answered, “Have faith in God…”
May we bear fruit! Much, much fruit. May we have faith in God to do it. May we not be “leaf-only” followers. May our whole hearts be turned over to him. May Christ heal any brokenness within us so his life can bring aliveness to every part of us. And may that aliveness overflow to those around us so we would bring good into the world. When he comes to inspect and judge us, may we be ready and be fruitful and wholly beautiful. May he do this in us!