Why did Jesus curse a fig tree?

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QUESTION: Why did Jesus curse a fig tree while he was walking with his disciples toward Jerusalem?

ANSWER: There are two New Testament accounts of Jesus cursing a fig tree. They can be found in Matthew 21 and Mark 11. The account Mark gives offers more detailed information about this curse. Let us begin by examining the eleventh chapter of Mark's gospel.

12 The next day, as they were coming back from Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 He saw in the distance a fig tree covered with leaves, so he went to see if he could find any figs on it. But when he came to it, he found only leaves, because it was not the right time for figs. 14 Jesus said to the fig tree, 'No one shall ever eat figs from you again!' And his disciples heard him (curse it - Mark 11:12 - 14).

The tree in question did have very large and spreading leaves, as if there might be fruit on it. To the casual reader it may seem strange at first to look for figs when it was not the season for them. He was actually not expecting to find any, but something else. This is what one encyclopedia stated regarding these trees.

The most primitive is the caprifig, commonly regarded as the wild type from which edible figs have evolved. Trees of the caprifig characteristically produce three series of fruit buds each growing season; the first gives rise to the profichi or spring crop, the second to the mammoni or summer crop and the third to the mamme or winter crop . . .

Noting that, as verse 13 shows, our Savior did not expect to find a fig on the tree, but He was looking to find something. The tree was probably of the profichi type and should have had at least fruit buds during this time of year. We need to bear in mind that figs were a food staple in the Middle East. Christ did not find what he was looking for on the plant and therefore cursed it.

There are two profound lessons that we can learn from this incident. The first lesson can be found within verse 14 where Christ stated, "Let no one eat fruit from you ever again." God makes an investment in every person He calls into His truth. He gives them the priceless gift of His Holy Spirit and thus He expects His followers to make good use of it and grow in spiritual character. Christians must produce spiritual fruits. The total failure to do so will result in the final punishment of being cast into the lake of fire (Matthew 25:14 - 30).

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The second lesson is given to us by Jesus himself in verses 20 to 24 of the same chapter.

'Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.' (Matthew 25:24)

The incident of the curse of the fig tree was not a case of disappointment resulting in an outburst of impatience. It was a great and unforgettable lesson in faith delivered by the Son of God in an unusual circumstance. This incident was also an admonition to NOT be fruitless.

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Why did Paul curse the High Priest?
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