“Morning by morning, O Lord, you hear my voice”

Psalm 5:3

Lesson of the Barren Fig Tree

(Please read Mark 11:12-21)

August 15

It was on a day after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem that he “cursed” the fig tree, as described in our text. The tree was leafed out, thus promising fruit, but it was barren. Jesus didn’t curse in the profane sense, but he did sentence that tree to death.

When Peter called attention the next morning to the withered condition of the fig tree, Jesus spoke of the power of believing prayer (see Mark 11:22-25). His comments in the light of Peter’s remark seem unusual in that they don’t mention the fig tree. But Jesus had cleansed the temple, and later that day the disciples would hear him speak of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, and foretell the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. His prophecy was so well illustrated by the fate of the fig tree.

Israel was barren spiritually, but it bore “leaves” of pretense advertising a religion its leaders did not possess. The curse of the fig tree was a prophetic picture of what was about to happen to barren Israel, as the mainstream of Christianity would pass it by. No wonder Jesus spoke of the need for faith, and the power of prayer, as these coming events were to unfold.

Let the barren fig tree be a warning to us that we must bear the fruit of righteousness. On the last evening of his life, Jesus declared, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, NIV).


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