The Gospels
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Being Faithfully Fruitful: Lessons from the Fateful Fig Tree

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“And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.  And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it…

…And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.

And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” ~ Mark 11:12-14 & 20-24

Why would Jesus curse a fig tree for not having fruit (for Him to eat) when it was not even time for the fig tree to bear fruit?  Jesus created the fig tree.  Jesus created the seasons.  Jesus designed fig trees to bear fruit seasonally and cyclically.  Why would Jesus curse the fig tree for doing what he designed fig trees to do?

To understand this passage, we must first realize that Jesus was not angry and He did not have a particular dislike for fig trees.  Moreover, as part of Scripture, Jesus’ action was not insignificant: it had meaning.  Indeed, the cursing of the fig tree was a dramatic object lesson for His disciples then and for Believers thereafter: Jesus was powerfully demonstrating the radically new reference frame in which His disciples must operate.fig tree-3

The conventional human practice of benevolence has always been that if we are going to help someone, then we give from what we have at that time, in that season.  In other words, we meet the needs of others with what we presently have available to us.  Especially, we give from our surplus: what we have extra.

However, Jesus discarded that concept and replaced it with a new one.  When someone was in need, it would be His disciples’ responsibility to help them; no caveats, no qualifications, no provisos, no conditionalities, no “ifs, ands or buts”.  When someone came to them for fruit, they would not be allowed the excuse of not being in season.

This was not the first time that Jesus taught His disciples this lesson.  Jesus had already demonstrated this principle with His own life: He met the needs of all who came to him in need, never turning anyone away because he was “out of season”.

Even at the wedding feast in Cana, when it was not yet His time (John 2:4), He still met the needs of the hosts (John 2:1-11).

Further, Jesus challenged His disciples to feed the multitude that had followed Him into the wilderness to hear Him teach (Matthew 14:15-16, John 6:5-7).  The disciples had what seemed to be reasonable excuses:

  • there were too many to feed,
  • they did not have the money to buy enough food for everyone,
  • let them be responsible for their own food.

But, Jesus fed them anyway; He accepted no excuses and He made no excuses.

In the object lesson, when Jesus was hungry it was the fig tree’s job to provide fruit; no excuses.  When the fig tree provided no fruit it was cursed and it dried up from the roots: it was now only suitable to be cast into the fire.  When there is a need, we, the disciples of Jesus, must meet that need; no excuses.

Consider the following passage:

“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…

…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.~ John 15:1-2 and 5-6

fig tree-4Those that abide in Jesus and in whom Jesus abides will always bring forth MUCH fruit.  And, just as Jesus did, they will ALWAYS, under every circumstance and in every instance, meet the needs of those in need; no excuses.  Conversely, those who do not abide in Jesus, will never produce fruit, they will never be “in season”.  Therefore, they will wither…   just like the fig tree did.

If we have Jesus in us what excuse is there to produce fruit?  What excuse can we give for not meeting the needs of those we encounter?  Is Jesus seasonal?  Is His power cyclical?  Certainly not!  The problem is that WE are seasonal, situational, cyclical and conditional.  We vary, Jesus does not.

The Christian is always able to meet the needs of those around him/her, because there are no limits on Jesus’ power to use him/her.  The problem is that the Christian is not always willing or prepared to draw on the power Jesus provides.

Jesus’ disciples were unable to heal a boy possessed with a demon. And, after Jesus healed the child, they asked Him why they had been unable to (Mark 9:14-29).  Jesus answered them saying, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting”.

Notice that Jesus never said they did not have access to the power to heal Him.  Rather, Jesus suggested they had not used the correct approach.  They already had all the power they needed to bear the fruit for the season that confronted them.  What they lacked was the right preparation.

Today, too many Believers limp around as if they are unable to exercise the power of God made available to them by the Holy Spirit indwelling their lives.  We seem to forget that “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me…” (Galatians 2:20).   And the Christ that lives in us is not impotent: He is not powerless!

Are we prepared for Christ’s power to work through us?

The Christ that lives in us intends to meet the needs of all that we encounter.  He intends to produce the fruit for which our fellowman yearns.  And the Christ that lives in us is NOT seasonal!  When the Christ that lives in us meets someone He is always ready to meet their needs.  The question is whether we will allow the Christ that lives in us to bear fruit through our lives; or whether we will just content ourselves with producing leaves.

The fig tree was full of leaves but void of fruit… fig leaves are pretty (some actually grow fig trees ornamentally to enjoy their foliage) but fig tree leaves cannot satisfy.  Believers can sing and celebrate all day if we like, but our society needs fruit, not pretty leaves.fig tree-5

As Christians focus increasingly on receiving a blessing instead of being a blessing, the church is withering.  Our influence is waning fast.  For many onlookers, we have become anachronistic avatars with quaint, but irrelevant, beliefs.  We have great buildings, great music, and nice programs: we have beautiful leaves.  But too often we provide no salt for a decaying society.  Too often we provide no light for a society stumbling around in darkness.

►What do you have for the coworker who feels depressed and needs good counsel?

►What do you have for the single mother who is struggling to raise her children and pay the bills?

►What do you have for the abused child in the apartment down the hall?

►What do you have for the young man addicted to pornography?

►What do you have for the lonely old people at the nursing home (the one you pass on your way to church every Sunday)?

►What do you have for the beggar on the corner?

►What do you have for the Muslim girl at school?

To be clear, not everyone came to Jesus looking for fruit.  Indeed some, like the Pharisees, came to chop Jesus down.  And they even thought they had.  Moreover, many did not take the fruit Jesus had to offer.  Some, like the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-22, Luke 18:18-23), walked away.  But, that’s not the point.  The point is that Jesus always had something to offer.  And, if He lives in us, so do we… IF we will let Him work through us.

Not everyone is interested in the fruit Christians must bear; not everyone will accept that fruit Jesus wants to produce through us.  But we must bear the fruit anyway.  When someone in need crosses the path of a Believer, there must be fruit available for their hunger; we must be wells of living water to quench their thirst (John 4:14).  We must be the fig trees that bear in season and out of season.

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.” ~ 2 Timothy 4:2

In closing, it is worthwhile addressing the question “How can I produce fruit?”

Indeed, that was the very question Jesus addressed when He later spoke to His disciples about the now withered fig tree (Mark 11:20-24).  When Peter pointed out the next day that the fig tree had withered, Jesus gave an unexpected answer, rather than addressing the withering of the fig tree, Jesus replied “Have faith in God” and then He proceeded to teach them about faith.

Clearly, Jesus was not suggesting that His disciples go around cursing fruit trees.  Rather, Jesus was zeroing in on the second point of the object lesson: To produce fruit in season and out of season requires faith.

∆ If we are going to feed five thousand hungry men, we must have faith in God.fig tree-6

∆ If we are going to heal the sick, we will need faith.

∆ To give Biblical counsel to a co-worker requires faith.

∆ To help a single mom in need requires faith.

∆ To rescue an abused child requires faith.

∆ To help someone out of the trap of pornography needs faith.

∆ To minister to the lonely and neglected needs faith.

∆ To reach out to the homeless requires faith.

∆ To share the gospel with an unbeliever we must have faith.

In Jesus, Believers have the potential to produce fruit; BUT we need to exercise faith to turn that potential into reality.  Without faith we will just be leafy, unfruitful fig trees, regardless of the season.


  1. Pingback: Being Faithfully Fruitful: Lessons from the Fateful Fig Tree | stmikeofgod's Blog

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