And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. – Matthew 21:19
I’ve heard and known about this verse for all of my life, and to be honest with you I have really never known quite what it meant. I mean why would Jesus want to curse a fig tree? Yes I realize that the account in Mark 11:12–14 offers a little more insight saying that it was not the season for figs, but that still doesn’t really answer the question as to why Jesus cursed the fig tree. So first I prayed and sought guidance form the Holy Spirit then I did a little digging. Some of the proposed answers that I came across were really strange. Some “scholars” believe that this event happened right after Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on what we now call “Palm Sunday” and have suggested that Jesus was over tired and not well rested. Or that he was still so hyped up after the events of the Triumphal Entry that His expectations were not realistic for a fig tree that was out of season but already had leaves. I even read one account suggested that Jesus had ‘low blood sugar’ and was very irritable. As far as I am concerned these were not answers but absurd excuses of people trying to twist the Scriptures into something other than the Word of God.
So after much prayer I felt compelled to explain what I discovered when I did further research on this verse. After looking at the context of the passage I realized that this was pointing more towards the fig tree being fruitful and not so much about Jesus. I discovered that fig trees in Jerusalem at that time of the year might still have left over fruit on them from the previous season before the leaves would appear. I also discovered that minute wasps cultivated the trees, causing them to produce fruit before the leaves emerged. Either way if this fig tree had been fruitful either from the previous season or setting fruit for the upcoming season there would be fruit on it before the leaves would appear. So Jesus cursed this fig tree because it was not fruitful, not because He was in a bad mood or His blood sugar was low. The tree had the outward appearance of being full of life but at its heart it was dead. It was not producing fruit nor was it ever going to produce fruit.
So what then does this mean for us? It means that Jesus expects us to be fruitful and alive when it comes to the things of God. A great example of this is in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). In this Jesus explains that the Kingdom of God is like a man going on a journey and entrusted his servants to keep working and making money for him while he is gone, after the man returns he wants to settle up with his servants. The first two servants take the money that is given to them and doubles it while the third servant takes his talent and buries it instead of at least putting it in a bank and producing some interest on it (a talent was a monetary unit that was equal to about 20 years wages to the common laborer). Jesus is expecting us to take what has been given to us (not just money, but to use our abilities as well) and go out into the world and double it not just once but over and over again.
We are to be fruitful with what has been given us, from one season to the next. We need to be continuously telling people about Jesus and living our lives in accordance with the scriptures for they are the Word of God. What have you done to be fruitful in your life? -E.C.