Mark 11:20-21- Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.” NKJV
Jesus cursed a fig tree and it dried up! Overnight! Jesus and His disciples were walking along when He noticed a fig tree.
Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.”Mark 11:12-14 NKJV
Can we just stop and think about this situation for a second? Jesus, who is always in control, who could have spoken to that fig tree and commanded figs to appear to satisfy His hunger, does the opposite and curses it. I’ve wondered why He would do such a thing. After all, it was not the season for figs, and yet He went over to it looking for fruit. Doesn’t this seem a little strange? Well, it does to me, and so I had to investigate to see if there could be another explanation.
I will admit that there are some commentators who believe that this incident did not really happen. They believe that Jesus did not curse a literal fig tree and then it withered up the next day. They call this another one of His parables. There are others who believe it actually did happen. I am not calling myself a commentator, but I truly believe this was a literal happening of a fig tree withering away at Jesus’ command. Having said that, I agree that this was not so much about hunger, there was a deeper meaning.
The fig tree has been part of the biblical narrative since Genesis. When Adam and Eve committed high treason against God, they covered themselves in fig leaves (Genesis 3:7). When the 12 spies went out for Joshua, they brought back grapes, pomegranets, and figs (Numbers 13:23) to show the richness of the land. When Solomon was king, the safety, peace, and prosperity of the land was pictured as a man sitting under his fig tree (1 Kings 4:25). And here in the gospel of Mark, Jesus curses a fig tree.
Those that believe it was a literal event sees the cursing of the fig tree as a lesson to the Jewish nation. As the fig tree had leaves and no fruit, were the Jewish religious leaders; they had the trappings of fruitfulness, but no fruit. In yet another commentator’s discussion, Israel is the fig tree that produces no fruit, and is therefore cursed, that their mission may be given to another, the Gentiles. Lastly, it is believed that the parable of the fig tree points to the parable of the fig tree not having fruit:
He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?Luke 13:6-7 NKJV
It is as if Jesus gave the nation of Israel time to bear fruit while He conducted His public ministry, but here at the end, they are still without fruit! So they have lost their ability to bear fruit! It’s a lot to think about!
But here are a couple things we can definitely say about the withered tree; first, this is the only miracle that was as a result of a cursing. When Jesus told the tree it would never bear fruit again, it was never going to bear fruit again, and that was a curse. Period! Secondly, Peter drew attention to the withered tree as if it was a big deal! Which from my point of view, and thousands of others, this was indeed a big deal! Also, with Mark mentioning that they all saw the withered tree, we can definitely say that this was not a parable, but an event that happened in the life and ministry of Jesus!
And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.Mark 11:20-21 NKJV
The miracle was so astounding that Mark described the fig tree as dried up from the roots. Its very source of life was cut off, and it immediately died. Had the tree died a week later or even a month later, it would have still been attributed to Jesus’ words, and would have still been miraculous! But this happened from evening to morning. And all of the disciples saw it! But of course, Peter is the one to make mention of the fact.
I can truly understand how some might try to pass this off as not really happening. It’s pretty unbelievable. But it’s as dangerous as passing off the virgin birth as not being literal, or the resurrection as not being literal. If we start taking out the parts of the Bible we have a difficult time believing or understanding, then where will that lead us? I’ll tell you where that type of interpretation will lead us; to a state of confusion, illusions, and delusion. Not a path I am going to go down, or lead anyone else to. And if you will notice, I let you know when something is my opinion, or my thinking, which is different from something being the unadulterated truth of the word of God!
In response to Peter’s statement of the withered fig tree, Jesus said:
Have faith in God.Mark 11:22 NKJV
In the Young’s Literal, these words say it a little differently,
Have faith of God.Mark 11:22 YLT
I believe this response is as controversial as the withered fig tree, and I will go into it more in my next blog. For now, I want to address the differences in this phrase.
When we speak of having faith in God, it is a profound statement. Looking at the withered fig tree, Jesus is drawing attention to the fact that He is God, and Peter and the others should have faith in Him.
Another aspect of having faith in God, is to remind them that with God, all things are possible. There is literally no other answer for how God moves. If it can be explained, it isn’t God. We are always looking to explain things in the Christian faith, and some times I believe that we just need to tell people, they are going to have to trust God on some things! That’s it! No other explanation! So looking at the fig tree, if you have faith in God, this fig tree withering is not that hard to conceptualize as a literal event.
Have the faith of God is more of a phrase that tell us how God operates. Since God spoke to the earth and told it to bring forth trees, can’t God speak to the tree and tell it to die? Both aspects are powerful theological themes. Believing in God and acknowledging how He operates! Jesus was giving a lesson to the disciples. The lesson that He wanted the disciples to understand is our topic for my next blog!
As I said in the beginning, I was wondering if there was another explanation other than Jesus being hungry. While I accept that Mark said it was because He was hungry, I also believe there was more to what happened than the disciples realized at the time. Wonderful Jesus!