He found nothing but leaves: Mark 11:13b
What was the meaning, lesson, or purpose behind the cursing of the fig tree? Jesus used the fig tree as a real-life example of the Jewish people (especially the religious leaders) and the hypocritical lives they were living. They were outwardly religious, but failed to produce the fruits of the Spirit. They loved doing alms and praying in public so people would think they were spiritual people, Matthew 6:2-4.
In a similar way, the fig tree looked good on the outside, it had plenty of green leaves and should have had figs on it, but a closer look revealed it had none. God was patient with Israel, He had given her time to repent and change her ways but she continued her sinful, self-seeking ways. Like the fig tree, she was not bearing fruit; therefore, God was going to send judgment on her as well as the fig tree. The tree was a visual object lesson for the disciples and anyone who had ears to hear and eyes to see.
If you read the book of Malachi, you find that God was constantly condemning the Jewish people for their insincerity and lackadaisical attitude in their devotion to God. They weren’t putting God first in their lives and they didn’t care how God felt about it. God had given them directions concerning the condition and type of sacrifice they were to bring. But the people in the days of Malachi didn’t care. They brought whatever they wanted to. In Malachi 1:13, the Lord says, “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick, thus you bring an offering! Should I accept it from your hand?” More than 400 years before Christ came, many of the Jews were an ungodly, hypocritical bunch.
At around 165 B.C, the Pharisees were organized and started with good intentions. But when Jesus arrived on the scene, most of them had degenerated into legalistic hypocrites. The Pharisees despised the Romans, but they hated Jesus with His teaching about equality and claims of messiahship even more, John 11:53. Many of the religious leaders tried to turn the hearts of the people against Jesus as well.
The Jewish people had fallen to a spiritual low much like the time period when they were carried off to Babylon. This gives us some insight and understanding as to why the Christ was received the way He was. Although Jesus came with a gospel of salvation, peace, and good will, He was not received in a good way. John 1:11 says, “He came to His own and His own did not receive Him.” Matthew 21:42 says, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.”
The Jewish people and religious leaders persecuted the prophets since the days of the Kings. Their hatred for Jesus was even greater because He threatened their economy, lifestyle, power, and authority. In Luke 13:34, Jesus said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were unwilling!”
The moral and spiritual decline of Israel was in need of correction. Jesus used the example of the fig tree to warn the Jewish people of judgment if they chose not to repent. The fig tree withered quickly and also dried up from the root, Mark 11:20.
The judgment that was to come on Jerusalem and the Jewish people was spoken of by Jesus in Luke 19;43-44. “For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you and your children within you to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
God sent judgment in A.D. 70, when the Romans took Jerusalem using an embankment to besiege the city. 600,000 Jews were slain, and thousands more were led into captivity, reference, The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary. How much better it would have been for the Jewish people if they had seen their error and repented.
The same goes for us today, are we willing to submit to the revealed will of God; or does He need to send judgment upon this entire nation? As individuals, do we worship God in spirit and truth, or do we simply play church? Comments or questions, contact me at: email@example.com
Lyndon Stimeling, of Richfield, has been writing about faith and family for many years. He has self-published three books, “Common Thoughts on The Word” in 2016 and “Eye of a Needle” in 2017 and “Common Thoughts on The Word II” in 2019. He has also had articles published in The Coming Home Journal and local newspapers and has written a children’s book.