Lessons From the Fig Tree

Kent Heaton

As Jesus traveled from Bethany to Jerusalem he passed by a fig tree and being hungry, went to see if the tree had figs. From a distance the tree looked as if it were bearing fruit as it had leaves out of season. When the Lord came to the tree he did not find any figs on the tree and in response Jesus said, "Let no one eat fruit from you ever again" (Mark 11:14). The next day as they traveled by the fig tree, the disciples saw the fig tree dried up for the roots. "And Peter, remembering, said to Him, 'Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.' So Jesus answered and said to them, 'Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses'" (Mark 11:21-26).

There are important lessons in this story. We see first the humanity of Jesus. Mark 11:12 says that Jesus was hungry. Our Lord experienced all the human emotions and needs of men. He grew tired (John 4:6); needed sleep (Luke 8:23); was thirsty (John 19:28); suffered (Matthew 27:26-31); and he died (Matthew 27:50). In the story of the fig tree the humanity of Jesus is seen when He saw the tree from a distance but had to go to the tree to see if there were figs. Our Lord was man. The divinity of Jesus is seen in Him cursing the tree. He spoke to the tree and the next day the tree was dead from its roots. Mark notes the disciples heard Jesus curse the tree (Mark 11:14) and this impacted Peter the next day when he "remembered" what Jesus said (Mark 11:21). The miracles of Jesus were powerful, demonstrative and given as signs that He was the Son of God (John 20:30-31).

Jesus was the consummate teacher and using the occasion of the fig tree He taught His disciples the power of power and conditions of prayer. The fig tree did not die because someone cut its roots with a shovel or poured poison on it. It died because of the power of Jesus words and His faith in the promises of the Father. The demonstration of His words to curse a tree should ring loudly of the power of God's will working through His disciples. "Have faith in God" Jesus says. Ask for those things that are impossible and let God work in your life. Trust in the will of God to give you hope. Prayer is always conditional and Jesus interjects the need of relationships in prayer. Forgiveness cannot be given from a powerful God when forgiveness will not be granted to one another. It may be our prayers are hindered because we have not forgiven others. The power of Jesus resided in a relationship He had with the Father and with His fellow man. Prayers cannot be answered when the barrier of an unforgiving heart captures the spirit of the heart's desire. Answered prayers come from hearts free from the guilt of unforgiving hearts. The fig tree died for being unfruitful and out of season. We must not let the toils of this life make us unfruitful or out of season with the work of the Lord.