May 26, 2022
THE FIG TREE – Mark 11:12-14
Listen to last week’s sermon: The Fig Tree found in Mark 11:12-14.
On Sunday, May 15, 2022, Pastor Peter Jamieson led the congregation through a series of verses, beginning with Mark 11:12-14. As shown in this chapter, when Jesus went to pick fruit from a fig tree, He did not find any. As a result, He cursed it. We ought to be highly concerned about this. Christians and theologians alike have long sought to understand why Jesus destroyed this tree. Was it in some way unhealthy? Or, does this event have a deeper significance that warrants our attention?
The incident in question, according to Pastor Peter, is an indication of a much larger problem that affects us all in a very significant way. Both the Old and New Testaments contain references to the fig tree, not as the symbol of Israel, but rather as a symbol of the nation of Israel.
Read Hosea 9:10
The Bible frequently depicts Israel as a fig tree, and passages such as Mark 11:12-14 above are only one example. Hosea 9:10, Jeremiah 24, Joel 2:22, Micah 4:4, 1 Kings 4:25, Zechariah 3:10, John 1:48, and Revelation 6:13 all make reference to the nation of Israel and symbolize it as a fig tree. As stated in Hosea 9:10, Israel was the first fruit. Fig trees are thriving in Israel today. Formerly a wilderness, Israel now boasts a large number of flourishing, mature, and well-developed fig trees. On May 14, 1948, at the stroke of a pen by the United Nations, Israel was born in a day.
Fig trees produce fruit twice a year. Early fruits are called nodules. They are typically visible in the spring before the leaves are fully formed. Throughout the summer, the edible nodules ripen and become fully matured figs by September.
Fig trees have blossomed and flourished in Israel over the last generation, which could be viewed today as a messianic sign. Today, there is an abundance of fig trees in this country, the Jews have returned to their homeland, and the nation is experiencing prosperity. In Israel, there is a longing for restoration, but this restoration will not come until the nation is prepared to proclaim, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Read Mark 11:12-14
The disciples heard Jesus curse the fig tree.
Scripture must never be taken out of context, as misreading Scripture leads to erroneous doctrines. The proper division of the Word of Truth requires us to understand what precedes and what follows so that we can appropriately place a passage in its proper context. At the time of the original writing of the Scriptures, the Old and New Testament chapters and verses were not identified. They were written as one continuous discourse. Many centuries later, chapters and verses were added to simplify the navigation of the Scriptures. It is necessary, therefore, to understand more broadly what is happening in Mark, chapter 11, in order to fully grasp what was happening with the fig tree, and why Jesus cursed it.
Read Mark 1:15
The birth of Jesus occurred at the appropriate time in history. He fulfilled prophecy when He came into the world, despite the fact that He entered Jerusalem, from the Mount of Olives, on the back of a donkey’s foal. The eleventh chapter of Mark begins with Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt. Palm Sunday is the commemoration of this event. The crucifixion and execution of Jesus were only a matter of days away. It was the appointed time. According to Zachariah 14:4, this has profound significance and prophetic implications.
Read Zachariah 9:9, 14:4, and 14:9
Zachariah 9:9 also records that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem on a donkey.
Zachariah 14:9 was the fulfillment of messianic prophecy. Jesus intentionally entered Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives knowing that the people of Israel would be familiar with these Scriptures and would recognize their significance. Jesus was clearly declaring to the Jews that He was their Messiah, their true King!
Read Mark 11:11
It is important to view the story as a whole. Christ had just entered Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives on the back of a donkey’s colt. Following the fulfillment of messianic prophecy, He entered the Temple. He left without saying a word and returned to Bethany for the evening. The next morning, Jesus again departed for Jerusalem and the Temple. Desiring to eat, Jesus made His way to the fig tree. From a distance, it appeared healthy and beautiful; however, closer inspection revealed it was devoid of figs. In light of the fact that figs were not yet in season, why did Jesus become angry? Why did He curse the fig tree? There were no mature figs on this fig tree when Christ examined it, but He should have seen edible nodules. This tree was not only fruitless but also devoid of any promise of future fruit. It was barren. Since it was not growing, it would never bear fruit. It was destined for destruction. The fig tree symbolizes Israel.
The construction of the Temple is fundamental to understanding the events that are to follow. The Temple had two inner chambers. The first was the Holy of Holies which housed the Ark of the Covenant. Only the High Priest was authorized to enter the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat of the Ark to atone for the sins of the people. The second inner chamber was the Holy Place, which was separated from the Holy of Holies by a large, heavy curtain. This curtain was torn from top to bottom at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. The Holy Place also contained a lampstand, symbolizing God’s light; the altar of incense, symbolizing the prayers of the Saints; and a table of showbread with 12 loaves representing the 12 tribes of Israel. Access to the Holy Place was restricted to priests. Beyond this was the outer court. Within the outer court there was a sacrificial altar and a bronze laver, also called a bronze basin, which contained water for washing.
To recapitulate, the three inner sanctuaries – the Holy of Holies, the Holy Place, and the outer court – were for the exclusive use of priests. Beyond the sanctuaries was the Israelite court. This was a place of worship and prayer for Jewish men. Beyond the Israelite court, further away from the Holy of Holies, was the court of the women. The women were permitted to worship and pray at this location but could not proceed any further. The men were allowed to enter one more court into the court of the Israelites, but they were forbidden to proceed further. The priests could go further still, and the High Priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies once a year. The most remote court, the Court of the Gentiles, was located within the walls, around the edge of the Temple. This court was open to non-Jewish believers who wished to worship and pray to Yahweh. This was as near as non-Jewish believers could get.
Read Genesis 22:18
We must remember that when Jesus entered the Temple, God had created the nation of Israel to be His witness upon the earth. The purpose of the nation was to bring life to the Gentiles and to proclaim the glory of God throughout the world. God told Abraham that due to his obedience, all the nations would be blessed through his descendants.
Read John 3:16-17
The above passage clearly indicates that God loves the entire world, not just Israel! God never intended that salvation be restricted to Jews alone. In fact, the Jews were to bring the glory and light of God to the world, but they had restricted salvation solely to themselves. The Israelites had not shone their light for all to see. The light they emanated was for themselves alone. The Jews had become like a barren fig tree, with no hope of producing fruit. By establishing their marketplace in the Court of the Gentiles, the only area where Gentiles could congregate, they excluded them from the outermost part of the Temple. As a result, the world was denied access to God’s presence, and Jesus was furious! There was no previous instance in which He was so angry, except perhaps when He referred to the Scribes and Pharisees as “a brood of vipers and whitewashed tombs”. He then retired to Bethany.
Read Matthew 23:27 and 33
Jesus walked to the fig tree, a symbol and emblem of Israel, the next morning. In addition to not finding any fruit, He also did not find any nodules indicative of future fruit. As a result, He cursed the fig tree in the presence of His disciples saying that no one would eat from it again.
Read Mark 11:17
At this point, Jesus returned to the Temple, to the outer court of the Gentiles, which had been transformed from the only refuge and hope for the world, into a den of robbers. Making a whip from cords, He began to overturn the tables of the moneychangers, throw open the sheep pens, and release the pigeons. Moreover, He forbade anyone from carrying anything through the Temple and said “…Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations?’ But you have made it a den of robbers.”
Read Isaiah 56:7
According to Mark 11, the next day, as the disciples passed by, the fig tree that Jesus had cursed had dried up and withered to its roots. It became apparent to the disciples that the events of the previous days – Jesus’ entry into the city and His declaration that He was the Messiah; the state of the Temple and His cleansing of the Court of the Gentiles – had culminated in the curse of the fig tree. They understood what happened and why.
Pastor Peter reiterated the importance of the parable by reading the following passage from the book of Luke.
Read Luke 13:6-9
The disciples had heard this parable previously. Initially, they likely did not understand it, but they were now becoming aware of its significance. The parable depicts God as the man, Israel as the fig tree, and Jesus as the vinedresser. Despite pruning and caring for this tree for three years, no fruit could be harvested. A tree that failed to produce fruit was to be cut down and thrown away. The fig tree was cursed by Jesus as a response to the failure of His people to bear fruit, and there was no indication that they would bear fruit in the future.
Pastor Peter explained that the following account is the second story of the fig tree: the first story dealt with Israel’s death, while the second recounts its rebirth.
Read Matthew 24:6-7, 24:32-35. 23:38-39 and Matthew 24:2
Pastor Peter then highlighted the signs of Jesus’ Second Coming recorded in Matthew 24: false messiahs, wars, rumours of wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes. He then moved on to Matthew 24:32-35: the lesson of the fig tree.
In Matthew 23:38-39, Jesus told His disciples a day before His arrest and crucifixion: “Now your house will be left completely empty. I tell you, you will not see me again until that time when you will say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” When they went up to the Mount of Olives, Jesus then said, “Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, not one stone will be left on another. Every stone will be cast down to the ground.” This prophecy was fulfilled in 70 A.D., approximately 40 years following Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and ascension back to heaven. Following the Roman tenth legion’s attack, the entire city of Jerusalem was razed to the ground. The Temple was literally torn down stone by stone until no stone remained standing.
Israel had stood barren and dead for nearly 2,000 years, but in 1948, by the stroke of a pen through the United Nations, it was recognized as a Jewish nation once again. On that day, God performed a miracle. As a result, its branches became supple again. Since that date, Israel has once again established itself as a great nation. It is no surprise that Jews from around the world have migrated to their ancestral homeland and continue to do so. Israel was reborn in a single day. Israel has once again planted vineyards and turned its wastelands into a fertile and productive land. The fig tree’s branches are once again tender. Jesus says in Matthew 24:33-34, “So also you, when you see all these things, know that he is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”
Read Revelation 3:20
Pastor Peter emphasized that Jesus is at the door and that time is rapidly running out.
Read John 15:1-8; Mark 16:15, and Matthew 28:19
There are some basic truths that must be understood. Christ is the true vine and we are the branches. As such, we are to bear fruit. Similarly, without fruit, we too will be rendered useless and discarded. It is stated in John 15:2 that the Lord cuts off every branch that fails to bear fruit, and He prunes and cleans every branch that produces fruit so that it may bear even more fruit. As Christians, we are called to become fishers of men, who are tasked with rescuing souls for the Kingdom of God and for His glory. Before ascending to His Father, Jesus commanded His followers to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature and to make disciples of all nations”. Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:15 are the church’s marching orders. The church is to bear fruit, preach the gospel, and win souls to Christ. This is our primary objective and the fruit we should strive to produce. Time is quickly running out.
Read Matthew 23:39
Pastor Peter believes that we are the generation that will witness the end of all things. He posed the following questions to us today: “Are you ready for Jesus’ imminent return? Are you a fruit-bearing Christian? If your tree lacks fruit, do you at least have nodules forming which suggest that a harvest is forthcoming? Or are you destined to be cut down and burned like a barren fig tree? This tree symbolizes Israel, who exhibited no fruit and offered no prospect of future fruitfulness. Not only did she bear no fruit, but she also prevented others from entering the Kingdom of God. Therefore, Israel will not enter God’s Kingdom until she declares, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
God will not abandon His people. All the promises that God made to Israel will be fulfilled. As His bride, Christ will return for us. He is also returning to fulfill the promises He made to the Jews.
Ultimately, all of Israel will be saved, but in the interim, you and I have been grafted into her vine, into her tree, and as such we too must bear fruit and serve as the light of the world, otherwise we will also be cut off.
Read Matthew 9:37-38
In the passage, Jesus said to His disciples: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”
Read Isaiah 6:8
Pastor Peter’s prayer for us today is that we will hear and echo the words of the prophet Isaiah, who said: “I heard the voice of the Lord say, ‘Whom will I send? Who will go on our behalf?’ I answered, ‘Here I am, send me!’”