“Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.”
Mark 11:13, NASB
Perplexing isn’t it? I personally have lived with a certain amount of ambiguity with this passage. I have questions that I’ve swept under the rug. Why did that poor tree get cursed? It wasn’t the trees fault, after all. And didn’t Jesus realize this? So why go through the theatrics?
I don’t know if this is the case with anyone else. I hesitate to ask around. But recently have come to a better place about this entire event. The traditional view is that it comes immediately after “the cleansing of the temple” and that explains a lot. The fig tree is always emblematic of Israel. (The Old Testament is well populated with these references.) Mark adroitly organized his account in order to connect both events.
Jesus has no issues or vendettas against trees. But He does take an issue with things that claim fruit, but really have nothing. There is nothing but leaves. I’ve been told that the figs do grow, almost as fast as leaves. The lush greenness is the prime indicator of the succulent fruit. At least, it has the potential.
The beautiful leaves announces its fruitfulness. This tree was loaded, but had nothing to show but leaves. Within God’s plan for Israel was for fruit. Enough to feed the nations that would stream to Jerusalem. Instead, it was worthless. There was nothing to be had. Loads of leaves, and the promise of an incredible harvest, but zilch, zero, nothing.
Hypocrisy is a deadening experience, with a certain sterility in it. Israel was finding this out, and Jesus is now declaring it to the nation. A corrupt temple, and a fruitless tree; this were all indicators of hypocrisy and showiness. The luxuriant leaves loaded the tree, but ‘where’s the fruit?!’
Sometimes we declare that we are fruitful, on the mere basis of our leaves.
At times we can be a wonder, and make an exceptional statement. But when He comes, and looks up at our limbs and out to our branches, will He find fruit, or just lots of green? Leaves are pretty much all we can do. And we do it quite well. But the fruit is from the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22.)
Israel failed God. They became religious and neglected mercy, and justice. Humility and graciousness. The widow and the orphan were not part of their personal equation. They produced leaves by the wheelbarrow load, but were missing out on the authenticity to what was true, and what really mattered.
Pharisees will do this, and they turn into hypocrites who do not possess what they profess. A hypocrite values true godliness, but he personally falls short of all those things he admires. But he will never, ever admit it to anyone. And even we who struggle so, must continually admit that we stumble and falter as we try to follow.
I may be a ‘screwy’ excuse of being a disciple, but I have decided I don’t want to deceive people. God, help me.
“This year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practise ourselves the kind of behaviour we expect from other people.”