Miracle 33:
Cursing of the Fig Tree

A. Passage Selected: Mk. 11:12-26 - 12And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: 13And 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. 14And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it. 15And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; 16And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. 17And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written,  My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.  18And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine. 19And when even was come, he went out of the city. 20And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. 21And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away. 22And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.  23For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. 24Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. 25And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. 26But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. [i]

B. Presentation Summarized: -  And this is “on the morrow,” the second day, and they were coming from Bethany. This is the second day He entered in triumph as many view it.

 This little incident has caused great controversy. On this day He cleansed the temple and He cursed the fig tree.

1. Context  11:12

a.       This is the only miracle of destruction. 

b.       It seems out of character of the mild mannered Jesus to be angry at a poor little tree at a time        when it wasn’t time to bear figs?

c.       The nation Israel, in my opinion, is represented by the fig tree. I recognize there are others who      take exception to that, and I don’t want to be controversial.

d.       What I’m interested in is that there is a great spiritual lesson here. Israel had the outward leaves     of a God-given religion, but there was no spiritual fruit. only ritualistic, hypocritical religion.

e.       Like Israel, the tree looked good (“having leaves”), but upon closer inspection it was found to be     without fruit, just as Israel did not bear the fruits of righteousness.

f.         I wonder if we could say that of the church today? This would be His message to the church of      Laodicea. They didn’t have anything—they were poor and blind and needed to have ointment to      open their eyes. This means that the Holy Spirit was not there.

g.         I believe this is the same thing that Isaiah was talking about in Isaiah 29:13: “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of    men.” I would consider this the condition of the church today.

h.       The cursing and withering of the tree (v. 21) was a sign of God’s impending judgment.[1]

i.        The context is the key to understanding.  It is part of a sandwich passage. 


Cursing of fig tree

Link this back to Luke 13:1-9 parable of fig tree, which taught that grace was extended before judgment to give a chance for the fruit of repentance. Now the year is up.  Jesus is coming into Jerusalem looking for the fruit of repentance. If there is no fruit, what will happen to Jerusalem?  It will be destroyed.  If there are no figs on the tree, it will be destroyed.


Cleansing of Temple

The Problem in the Temple is the reason for the pronouncement against the fig tree.

The temple that should have been a house of prayer for all nations had been turned into a den of robbers.  The Gentile plaza had been filled up with moneychangers so that there was no room for Gentiles to come worship. Matt 23 shows that they locked up the knowledge and didn’t allow anyone else to enter in.  They didn’t live up to their own responsibility and caused others to lose out too.

Cursing of fig tree




2. Content  11:13-26

a. Cause  (13)
(1) The desire

The reason for the curse is because he was looking for fruit. Luk 13:6-9

(2) The disaster

He found only leaves. Appearance of life but no fruit.  It says it was not the season for figs, so why did he curse it?  Cf. Hendriksen in his Matthew commentary.  Budding precedes leafing.  Small figs precedes the leaves, which precede the regular figs.  He sees nothing but leaves. It is the small figs which guarantee the normal figs.  If there are no early small figs, there will be no big figs.  So he curses it.

b. Curse  (14)

Why is he justified in cursing the tree?  It is showing by its nature that it will be as it has been - i.e. unfruitful.  If there is no bud, there will be no fruit.  Why waste time waiting for the fruit? The Lord Jesus cursed the fig tree, and the fig tree withered away. 

c.  JESUS CLEANSES TEMPLE  - And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves  [Mark 11:15].

1.      Here He cleanses the temple. John tells us that He cleansed it at the beginning of His ministry and now cleanses it at the end of His ministry.

2.      This took place on the second day, and this was not the Sabbath Day; it was Sunday.

3.      The moneychangers were now in the temple. They had a seat on the stock market and were there so that when strangers came from other countries they could exchange coins.

4.      The strangers couldn’t use their foreign coins but needed the legal coin of the temple. When these moneychangers would make the exchange, they, of course, charged the people a certain percentage.

5.      It served a good purpose in a way, but the trouble of it was that our Lord said it had become a den of thieves. It had become a religious racket.

6.      Friend, this is always a danger in any Christian enterprise. That is the reason folk ought to check on religious organizations before they support them.


d. Consequence  (20-26)
(1) The response of Peter -  

“And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter, calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree, which thou cursest, is withered away” [Mark 11:20–21].

Peter acknowledges that it happened.  It is as if he was surprised.

This causes our Lord to give this discourse on prayer. They marveled at the fig tree, and this causes Him to give the discourse.[4]

(2) The response of Jesus

The disciples are going to have to have faith to understand what God is going to do to Jerusalem.


The fig tree is Israel, which will be judged for a lack of repentance.  They have the pretension of life, but not the substance of life. Cf. Mark 7:6 Externals of appearance not matched by internal faith.


·         To one who is given much is much required.

·         Knowledge of their past was an indication of their future actions.  And they did follow the same pattern.  They           ultimately said, “We have no other king but Caesar.”

·         Profession does not equal possession.

·         In light of the impending justice of God, I need to have faith - not only to exempt me from the judgment, but to           believe that God is fair in his judgments.  Trust God, He knows what He is doing.

·         Judgment is justified in the absence of faith.

·         Jesus is also preparing them for what is coming - his death.  They will undoubtedly have to deal with the attitude:           How can I minister to those at whom I am so angry for killing my Lord.  That is why he follows this with a               discussion on forgiveness.

[1]W.A. Criswell, Believer’s study Bible [computer file], electronic ed. , Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1991 by the Criswell Center for Biblical Studies.

[2]The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769.

[3]The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769.

[4]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.

[i]The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769.