The 2-Reasons Why Jesus Cursed the Fig Tree - Matthew 21:17-22

Have you ever wondered why Jesus cursed the fig tree?

After reading about it in her Bible, my daughter-in-law once asked me why Jesus cursed a fig tree. I think many people wonder that; maybe you are one of them. Christ’s cursing of the fig tree is recorded in Matthew 21:17-22 and Mark 11:12-24. This Bible study will examine these passages and provide two reasons why Jesus cursed the fig tree.

I must admit that when I read about Christ cursing a fig tree, I sometimes think, “Poor tree. It wasn’t its fault; it wasn’t fig season (Mark 11:13).”

We should remember that trees do not have the breath of life and have no living soul. God gave us trees to provide 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 for cooking and warmth. 

We shouldn’t feel sorry for the fig tree. Jesus used it as an object lesson to teach two important spiritual truths.

Context – When did Jesus curse the fig tree?

Jesus often spoke in parables and used everyday objects and activities to teach spiritual truth. 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.

Two Lessons of the Fig Tree

In a week, God would curse His Son by hanging Him on a tree (the cross) to become sin for us and pay the penalty for the sins of the whole world. On this day, Jesus cursed a tree to teach His disciples two spiritual lessons they needed to learn.

God wants His children to bear abundant fruit

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

The Parable of the Fruitless Fig Tree

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."

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 waste space and take nutrients out of the soil. The gardener asked to be allowed to cultivate and fertilize the ground 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

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

The parable of the Sower is really a parable about four soils (Matthew 13:3-23; Mark 4:3-20). It is a parable about the hearts of people and our response to the Word of God in our lives. Jesus told of a farmer (the sower) who spread good 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 who hear God’s Word. The good soil that bears fruit are the people who hear God’s Word, accept it, and produce abundant fruit “some an hundredfold, some sixty-fold, some thirty-fold.” This is the response God desires.

Fruitful Branches on the Vine of Christ

The last supper occurred only few days after the fig tree was cursed, withered and died. 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)

The first reason Jesus cursed the fig tree is as a warning that God expects His children to bear spiritual fruit at all times.

We must always be inspection ready. God knows everything we think, say and do. And Jesus could come back at any time. If Jesus examined your life looking for spiritual fruit, what would He find?

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.

Faith in Prayer:

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.” (Matthew 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 faith and did not doubt.

I’ve heard people say that they think this was just a figure of speech or exaggeration, because they don’t believe anyone could move a mountain. That unbelief automatically disqualifies a person from having their prayers answered. You must believe in order to receive.

Requirements for Receiving your Prayer Requests

Additional guidance from Scripture to receiving what you pray for:

  • 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 (James 1:6-7)
  • You must be single minded – you must know what you want without wavering and ask for it (James 1:6-8)
  • You must be specific in your request (Mathew 20:30-34).

You Must Believe

In Order to Receive


When Jesus cursed the fig tree, He had a good reason for doing so. We too, should have good reasons for what we pray.

Jesus cursed the fig tree to teach His disciples two spiritual lessons:

  • God is wants His children to bear abundant spiritual fruit. You never know when He may come looking, so we always need to be prepared.
  • Jesus used it to teach His disciples the importance of having faith in God. When you pray for something, you must have absolute faith that you will receive it, without having any doubts. Because only those who truly believe will receive.

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