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The cursing of the fig tree by our Lord was done at the end of His ministry on earth.

Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away! (Matthew 21:18-20)

Mark records the same incident:

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. (Mark 11:12-14)

It might look strange that Jesus cursed the tree, which had leaves but no fruit. And Mark says, “For the time of figs was not yet”!

Let us look at a parable that Jesus told about a fig tree:

He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down. (Luke 13:6-9)

We get insight from this parable about how our Lord works. In this story, He told about a fig tree that did not bear fruits for three years, and then He wanted to destroy it. It would be unfair to chop a tree if it just does not bear fruits for one year. But for three continuous years, it did not bear fruit. And most likely it was never going to bear fruits. The fig tree that Jesus cursed was in the city of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem was a central place in Jesus’ ministry on earth for over three years. Every year Jesus would have seen this fig tree just blossoming only with leaves. That particular year when he cursed it, he wanted his disciples to see and learn from this live demonstration something that would soon take place. Jesus would not have destroyed it if it was bearing fruits, but this tree was fooling people with only leaves.

The fig tree represents the nation Israel. The vine and the fig tree were often symbols that God used to represent His nation. They were used simultaneously many times, as the following Scriptures reveal.

But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree. (Micah 4:4)

Through Zechariah, the Lord declared:

In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbor under the vine and under the fig tree. (Zechariah 3:10)

To the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord gave a beautiful illustration of the two groups of His people likened to “good figs” and “evil figs”:

The LORD showed me, and, behold, two baskets of figs were set before the temple of the LORD, after that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, and the princes of Judah, with the carpenters and smiths, from Jerusalem, and had brought them to Babylon. One basket had very good figs, even like the figs that are first ripe: and the other basket had very naughty figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad. Then said the LORD unto me, What seest thou, Jeremiah? And I said, Figs; the good figs, very good; and the evil, very evil, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil. Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good. For I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land: and I will build them, and not pull them down; and I will plant them, and not pluck them up. And I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart. And as the evil figs, which cannot be eaten, they are so evil; surely thus saith the LORD, So will I give Zedekiah the king of Judah, and his princes, and the residue of Jerusalem, that remain in this land, and them that dwell in the land of Egypt: And I will deliver them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth for their hurt, to be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse, in all places whither I shall drive them. And I will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, among them, till they be consumed from off the land that I gave unto them and to their fathers. (Jeremiah 24:1-10)

The Lord Jesus waited patiently for the past 1500 years (from the time of Moses, when the nation was brought forth to the Promised Land until His coming as the Messiah) for the nation of Israel to bear good fruit. But as time passed, they only proved to be backsliding deeper into apostasy. It has always been the case when a person, a city, a country, or the world at large crosses the limit of God’s longsuffering, God would bring a halt to the wickedness by His swift judgment, which was long pending.

For example, look at the cases of Sodom and Gomorrah and the period before the flood. The nation Israel now reached the cut-off point as a representative nation.

The Lord Himself came as “Immanuel,” to be “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). For three and a half years, He did all that He could to bring them to repentance and bear the fruit of the Spirit. Though a few accepted Him, the vast majority did not.

Before His crucifixion, Jesus mourned aloud on the Mount of Olives, beholding the Jerusalem temple, and He wept:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. (Matthew 23:37, 38)

As the fig tree faced the wrath for being fruitless (which was a symbol

of that country), the nation Israel would also be “desolate” for being fruitless.

When would they face the wrath of being cut-off? Jesus said:

Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. (Matthew 23:36)

In A.D. 31, they rejected the Messiah by crucifying Him. And in A.D. 34, the leaders of Israel killed Stephen, the deacon, who is supposed to be the first Christian martyr. From then on, the Gospel went to the gentiles and to the entire world. The Christian church took over the place of the nation Israel. In A.D. 70, Jerusalem temple was destroyed by fire by the Roman army.

Are we bearing “the fruit of the Spirit”? If not, what happened to the fig tree and to God’s chosen people will happen again. Jesus said:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 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. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. (John 15:4-8)