“In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, He was hungry, and He noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any bigs, but there were only leaves. Then He said to it, ‘May you never bear fruit again!’ And immediately the fig tree withered up.” – Matthew 21:18-19
In Matthew 21, Jesus uses an illustration of a fig tree as He came upon one. What you should know about fig trees is that…well, they are for making figs. Go figure, right? It is actually pretty simple. If you want apples, you plant an apple tree. If you want oranges, plant an orange tree.
If you are planting a fig tree, it is because you want figs. If the tree isn’t producing figs, you might as well cut it down, or in Jesus’ case, curse it. Jesus cursed the tree because it was barren. But how did He know this? Because the fruit and the leaves typically appear around the same time. A fig tree covered with leaves but no fruit meant it was barren.
Now, verses in Jeremiah (8:13) and Hosea (9:10) show us that the fig tree was a symbol for the nation of Israel. The cursing of the tree came on Jesus’ passion week, just four days before His crucifixion.
But what is the significance of Jesus cursing this fig tree? It was Jesus’ way of saying that the whole nation had become spiritually barren before God. The fig tree (Israel) had a form of religion but not reality. They all knew the right words to say, but their hearts were far from God.
Jesus cursed the fig tree in comparison to Israel’s current state. But is this not a state we can relate to today? As a nation, we might know all the right words to say. We pledge allegiance by saying, “one nation under God.” It is on our car tags, even on our dollar bills. But is that how we live?
If we want to be true disciples of Christ and stand out as a light in a dark world, we must be different. We should not be like the fig tree that has grown barren. As we continue to serve Christ, growing in Him, we can be a light in the darkness. We can be new fruit on what has become a barren fig tree!