Why Did Jesus Curse the Fig Tree?

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Have you ever wondered why Jesus cursed the fig tree? (Mat. 21:17-21 and Mk 11:12-24)

My daughter-in-law asked me that question.  I think many other people are wondering the same thing.  I must admit, the last time I read it, I thought, “Poor fig tree. It wasn’t its fault; it wasn’t fig season.”

We should remember that trees do not have the breath of life, and have no living soul.  God gave us trees for food, and shade, to create oxygen, and for a variety of other uses.  The wood of trees is used for building and to make fires.  We really should not feel sorry for the tree.

 Jesus is looking for fruit

But why did He do it?  Why did Jesus curse the fig tree?

The cursing of the fig tree occurred the day after Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  Jesus knew His time was short.  He knew He was going to be crucified in less than a week, but He still had much to teach His disciples.  I believe Jesus cursed the tree as an object lesson with a double purpose.

God wants His children to bear abundant fruit

The first lesson is that Jesus is looking for fruit.  God wants us to be fruitful, and to bear spiritual fruit in our lives.  God does not accept excuses.  If we bear no fruit, there is no reason for us to be here.

Luke 13:6-9 records a parable about another fruitless fig tree:

“A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.  Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.” (KJV)

In this parable, the owner had been looking for fruit on his fig tree for 3-years, but there was none. He told his gardener to cut it down, asking why a useless fruit tree should be allowed to take up space and take nutrients out of the soil.  The gardener asked to be allowed to cultivate and fertilize the soil around the tree to give it the best chance of becoming fruitful, but agreed that it should be removed after another year if it was still fruitless.

“The parable of the sower” also highlights the importance of bearing spiritual fruit in our lives

The parable of the sower (Matt. 13:3-23; Mark 4:3-20) is really a parable about the hearts of people and our response to the working of God in our lives.  Jesus told of a farmer who spread his seed on four types of soil, but only the seed planted on good soil grew plants that produced fruit.  When asked to explain this parable, Jesus said that the seed represents the Word of God, and the soils represent people.  The good soil that bears fruit are the people who hear God’s Word, accept it, and produce abundant fruit “some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.”  This is the response God wants.

The last supper occurred only few days after the fig was cursed and withered.  During the last supper, Jesus clearly told His disciples:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.  Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.  Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.  Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me.

I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.  If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.  If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.  Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples.”  (John 15:1-8 / KJV)

God wants His children to have complete Faith

The second lesson is about the importance of having faith in God with no doubts.  When the disciples saw that the tree Jesus cursed had withered and died in less than a day, they were amazed.  This provided Jesus with a teachable moment.

The Bible records:

“And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen.” (Matt. 21:21 / ESV)
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24 / ESV)

Jesus told His disciples that they could do even greater miracles than withering the fig tree if they had enough faith and did not doubt.  I ‘ve heard people say that they think this was just a figure of speech or exaggeration, because they do not believe anyone could move a mountain.  That unbelief automatically disqualifies a person from having their prayers answered.  You must believe in order to receive.

Other scriptures provide additional guidance to receiving what you pray for.  Here a few:
• You must ask, but not to consume it on your lusts (James 4:2-3)
• You must ask in Jesus’ name, which means it must be something Jesus would do to glorify God the Father (John 14:13-14)
• You must ask in faith without doubting – you must know exactly what you want and ask for it (James 1:6-7)
• You must be single minded – you must know exactly what you want and ask for it (James 1:6-8)

By His example of the cursing of the fig tree, Jesus demonstrated that we should have a good reason for what we pray.  Jesus had at least two reasons for cursing the fig tree.  He did it to teach His disciples about the importance of bearing fruit.  He also used it to teach the  importance of having absolute faith in God when you pray.

 You must believe in order to receive

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