18 Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.
I’ve always pondered why Jesus cursed the fig tree, now before you tell me that’s obvious Ian, and say it didn’t have any fruit. I get that but in another verse it tells us that it wasn’t the season for figs to grow. So part of me as thought it’s a bit mean of Jesus to be cursing a fig tree for not having figs when really speaking, it’s not meant to have figs. That’s my earlier thoughts on the subject.
So after having this conversation with Tracey today I decided to look into it and find out why?
Well firstly I started reading about the characteristics of fig trees and I found out that they usually have a crop three times during the year, once in the spring and another two crops later on, I also noted that if the climate and conditions are right then the fig tree can have figs for up to sometimes ten months of the year. Of course they are not always ripe to eat during various times but a fig tree will show signs of fruit during those times none of the less.
So for Jesus and his disciples it wasn’t uncommon to see a fig tree with fruit even out of season. Also a very important point naturally speaking is that the figs on the fig tree generally appear before the leaves and because the figs are first green they blend in with the leaves right up until it is almost ripe.
I can now imagine Jesus and his disciples walking to the fig tree seeing it had leaves on it and expecting there to be figs. Of course – why wouldn’t they. But as we know it didn’t and there spells the end of the fig tree!!
Now a large part of me is satisfied with this explanation until I read another couple of studies on it. (The internet is a wonderful thing for gaining a start point on understanding)
If we look in Matthew 21, this passage is placed straight after Jesus overturns the tables and cleanses the temple of the moneychangers. Some believe that the cursing of the fig tree is symbolically linked to the cleansing of the temple and their reasons are this.
The fig tree is often used symbolically to represent Israel in the Scriptures and Jesus’ constantly refers to the Pharisees as hypocrites for their outward spiritual or religious actions but not having any substance or ‘fruit’. He overturns the tables and cleanses the temple at around the same time as he curses the fig tree. I’ve discovered that many believe that with the cursing of the fig tree, He was symbolically denouncing Israel as a nation and, in a sense, even denouncing unfruitful “Christians” (that is, people who profess to be Christian but have no evidence of a relationship with Christ) An interesting thought and worth pondering on.
We are called to bear fruit but many are like the fig tree – all the appearance of fruit but when studied a little closer we find just leaves. The Pharisees are exactly that and when we forget His love commands we edge ever closer to the same fate.