Updated: Oct 21, 2020
Mark 11:12-25 (NLT)
Jesus Curses the Fig Tree–Part 1
“The next morning as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. He noticed a fig tree in full leaf a little way off, so he went over to see if he could find any figs. But there were only leaves because it was too early in the season for fruit. Then Jesus said to the tree, ‘May no one ever eat your fruit again!’ And the disciples heard him say it.”
Jesus Clears the Temple
“When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. He said to them, ‘The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.’
When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him. But they were afraid of him because the people were so amazed at his teaching. That evening Jesus and the disciples left the city.”
Jesus Curses the Fig Tree–Part 2
“The next morning as they passed by the fig tree he had cursed, the disciples noticed it had withered from the roots up. Peter remembered what Jesus had said to the tree on the previous day and exclaimed, ‘Look, Rabbi! The fig tree you cursed has withered and died!’
Then Jesus said to the disciples, ‘Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.’”
The lesson of the fig tree is a difficult lesson for us to understand. Why would a loving Jesus curse a poor tree just because it’s fruit was not ready yet? Why is the lesson broken into different parts? Why does Mark lose the plot of this lesson by jumping to the temple court story then back?
Well, this is where context comes in. You have heard me say on a number of occasions that to understand something you need to pay attention to the three distinct contexts in and surrounding all forms of communications. The first and the last are the ones most of us lose out to the most. The first is the context of the author or speaker. This is the one that the writer cannot escape from. It is the context of their life and how they see the world. How, when, and where they live their life shapes them and colors their narrative and how they tell it. This is why we have to do research into history, geography, and the author themselves. The farther away from us in time and culture, the more we will miss out on unless we do the research. For example, why are the leaves on this fig tree important? And they are.
The second, the easiest sometimes, is the context of the words and writing style. How does the author use the words to tell the story? For example, why would an author bracket one story with another one such as in these passages? Is there a connection between the fig tree and the temple?
The third is the one our world suffers from the most these days. This is our own context. Yes, our own. It is how, when, and where you live your life that shapes how you see and preserve things. We need to get over ourselves to be able to see and understand the whole story. For example, most of us have a big eversion to the word slavery, and it clouds our understanding of much of scripture because this simple word turns us off so much. Just like in this lesson we take offense over many things of the past because we don’t like them. What if I were to tell you that you are in danger of being the fig tree that Christ curses? What emotion does it bring up? Can you get over it and listen to what Mark has to say?
Let’s start with the temple courts narrative first. Why does Jesus get so upset over the business being done there? Don’t the people coming to worship have a need for these merchants, don’t they need to buy there two doves for an offering? Well, maybe yes, they did at one time. But these merchants, backed by the priest, had become corrupt. They looked pious and helpful, but they were really deceitful. “You need to buy two doves? No problem, we can help you for a little profit. Oh, sorry you don’t have the right coins for us to accept. But my uncle has the money exchange business in the next booth. He can change your coin for just a slight profit.” “Oh, I see you brought your own lamb for the sacrifice. Best let our trained inspector check it over for defects—whoops, good thing we checked, yours has a small blemish only our trained priest eyes can see—no worry, we can change it four one of our guarantied lambs for a small profit.” See the picture now?
The money changers and priest looked pious on the outside but were corrupt and deceitful on the inside. Jesus came to worship. To have true worship, but He only found pious acting people pretending. The temple looked like a house of prayer and worship, but it was not. It was just going through the motions. How often do we see this today in our own churches? How many call themselves a Christian but do not really have that Spirit of God inside? Remember, we are now the temple. We carry in us the Spirit of God and should be daily walking around in the temple always ready to pray and worship our God, Savior, Creator.
Why does Mark bracket this story lesson with the fig tree? Well to understand that you must understand why leaves on a fig tree are important. But first, we need to understand that the fig tree has also been used in the Old Testament to represent Israel, the people of God. Also, fruit has long been known to represent abundance and doing good. More so, fig tree leaves only unfurl when they are in fruit. Yep, I told you that leaves were important. Here in these stories we see two representations of hypocritical actions. First, a fig tree that has leaves advertising, "Come partake of my fruit," yet has none. Secondly, a temple advertising, "Come worship," yet does not.
I said earlier that the fig tree represents the temple, the people of God. So, it also represents us as the people of God—let us never be found without fruit. If we say we are Christians let us be found to be Christlike. In addition, did you notice the ominous warning? The next day when they saw the fig tree it had, “withered from the roots up.” In Colossians 2:6-7 we read this, “And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness” Colossians 2:6-7 (NLT). The hypocrites will wither from their roots, because they are not allowed to grow deep in Him, Christ Jesus.
1. So, how is your fruit to leaves ratio?
2. Do your roots grow deep into Him, and fruit comes from you because of it?
Thank you, Pastor Perry