Questions From Readers
● Since it was not the season for figs, why did Jesus curse a fig tree that had no fruit on it, as reported at Mark 11:13, 14?—U.S.A.
When Jesus saw this fig tree it was Nisan 10 (March 28) of the year 33 C.E. In the case of fig trees in that region the buds for the first fruit crop of the season appear about February, on branches that grow the previous season, whereas leaves do not appear until the final part of April or in May. By the time the tree is in full leaf it should be bearing ripe fruit. Since the tree seen by Jesus was unusually early with its leaves, he could expect it to have unseasonably early fruit suitable for eating. The fact that the tree had no fruit indicated that it was unproductive. Its appearance was deceptive.
Jesus cursed the tree, causing it to wither. Why? Solely because of its deceptive appearance? Evidently Jesus’ act had a more vital purpose. It was really an object lesson for the benefit of his disciples. This we learn from a latter portion of the account, where Peter said: “Rabbi, see! the fig tree that you cursed has withered up.” And Jesus replied: “Have faith in God. . . . All the things you pray and ask for have faith that you have practically received, and you will have them.” (Mark 11:20-22, 24) It was Jesus’ faith in God that made his curse effective.
Additionally, the tree itself could well represent the ancient Jewish nation, which had an appearance of being fruitful in view of its covenant relationship with Jehovah God, and because of the Jewish religious leaders’ showy display of self-righteousness. (Matt. 6:5; 23:25-28) However, the nation had failed to produce good fruitage to God’s glory. It rejected Jesus Christ, the very one sent by God and revealed to be God’s Son by his miracles and teachings. But why did the nation reject Jesus? Because of lack of faith in God’s Word. (Luke 13:5-9) Consequently the faithless, unrepentant nation was to wither and die much like the unproductive fig tree.—Matt. 21:43.
We today can benefit from the lesson taught by Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree. Were we to lose faith in God’s ability to answer the prayers of his servants and to reward those earnestly seeking him, this would lead to our rejection, to our being cursed like unproductive fig trees. (John 15:2-6; Heb. 6:7, 8) God’s Word tells us: “Without faith it is impossible to please [God] well, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.”—Heb. 11:6.