Jesus curses 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 leveling a curse against a fig tree. They can be found in Matthew 21 and Mark 11. The account Mark gives offers more detailed information about this curse from Jesus. The verses in questions are the following.

And in the morning, after they left Bethany, He (Jesus) became hungry. Then, seeing a fig tree afar off that had leaves, He went to it to see if He might possibly find something on it. But after coming to it, He found nothing except leaves because it was not yet the season for figs.

And Jesus responded by saying to it, "Let no one eat fruit from you any more forever!" And His disciples heard it (heard him curse it, Mark 11:12 - 14, HBFV).

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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.


Jesus enters Jerusalem and passes cursed fig tree
Jesus enters Jerusalem and passes
cursed fig tree (above left of his halo)

"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, Jesus 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 miracle carried out by Jesus. The first lesson can be found within verse 14 where it is stated, "Let no one eat fruit from you any more forever!" 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.

Jesus makes possible our forgiveness and conversion so that we ultmately 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).

The second lesson we can learn from the fig tree being cursed is told to us by Jesus himself a few verses after his miracle is recorded. He states, "For this reason I say to you, all the things that you ask when you are praying, believe that you will receive them, and they shall be given to you" (Mark 11:24, HBFV).

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 Jesus in an unusual circumstance. This incident shows that God expects all those who believe His words to have faith and bear fruit.

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