6 And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. 7 And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree [a]without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; 9 and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’”
No matter how impressive our worldly works and achievements – things achieved by human effort for no spiritual gain – have zero value in God’s eyes.
THIS HOLY WEEK ASK YOURSELF? – What if the Lord checked you and me for spiritual fruit? .. Would He find nourishing, productive well tended fruit? .. even if we might consider it inconsequential? .. Or would He find a breathtaking display of leaves that proves to be nothing more than a glorious façade made of silk or artificial leaves?
The Lesson of the Fig Tree
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the hosannas and citywide profession of His messiahship were loud and enthusiastic. It must have seemed a stunning triumph. But Jesus realized that outward appearances don’t necessarily indicate universal or even authentic agreement. At the time of the cheering, in fact, He was en route to the temple, where money changers were evidence of that very truth. And so our Savior had wept as He neared the city, because the people “did not recognize the time of [their] visitation” (Luke 19:44) or the way to avoid what was now inescapable judgment.
The gospel writers then inserted a rather curious anecdote about Jesus approaching a distant fig tree in leaf, since He was hungry. Mark 11:13-14 tells us, “He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again!'”
Why would Jesus, the Creator of fig trees, curse one for not bearing fruit out of season? The question seems baffling—that is, except to those familiar with Middle East fruit crops. They would realize small edible knobs, or taqsh in Arabic, appear with the leaves and fall off before the actual fruit develops. Scholar F. F. Bruce (Are The New Testament Documents Reliable?) explains, “If the leaves appear unaccompanied by taqsh, there will be no figs that year. So it was evident to our Lord . . . [that] for all its fair foliage, it was a fruitless and a hopeless tree.”
Then Mark added a significant detail: “And His disciples were listening” (v. 14). Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree wasn’t some whimsical or annoyed outburst, as some suppose. It was an object lesson on the fruit born of genuine faith, in contrast to the worthlessness of empty religion, which they’d just witnessed in the temple. This was a crucial teaching for the first-century disciples, whose Teacher would be present just a short while longer. It’s also crucial for 21st-century disciples. Our fruitfulness matters greatly to God, but only when it’s the genuine article—the fruit of His Spirit, produced as we abide in the vine, Jesus Christ (John 15:5; Gal. 5:22-23).