There are some times when reading the Bible that you do a double take, and after the double take, you are still left scratching your head in wonder. One of these such passages is found in Mark 11:12-25. Here we read about Jesus coming upon a fig tree looking for fruit. When He doesn't find it he curses the fig tree. Later after Jesus has a similarly short temper in the Temple, they walk back by the tree and it is dead. This passage is one which has been misunderstood by many over the years.
The first problem that many people see with this whole passage is that Jesus seems like He has a short fuse, and that doesn't generally seem Jesus-esk. Jesus didn't simply lose his temper when He saw the tree. He used the tree to illustrate to His disciples an important theological truth. Israel had been the chosen nation.
"For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth." -Deuteronomy 14:2
God chose Israel to be the nation that He used to save the world through the birth of Jesus. He had brought them out of slavery, had fought battles, performed many miracles, toppled walls, and done everything possible to show Israel who He was. The problem is that Israel again and again rejected God for idols. When Jesus arrived on the scene, Israel again had rejected God for another idol; the idol of religion itself. It had become a means of power and wealth.
When Jesus saw the fig tree with its leaves, it should have had fruit by all indicators. It had leaves, which only sprout after the unripe fruit has grown. By all rights the tree should have had fruit, but it didn't. By all rights, when Jesus entered the Temple, He should have seen the genuine fruit of faith in God, but instead He found money changers, cheats, and swindlers inhabiting the place dedicated to the worship of God. They had become a people who had seen God face to face, and still they did not bear any spiritual fruit.
Jesus' lesson is not just for Israel. It is also for the church. As believers, we have seen God face to face through the gospel. Still, many in the church will never bear spiritual fruit. Many Christians don't experience any kind of spiritual growth, share the gospel, or make any progress in their Christian walks. Jesus makes clear in this illustration how God views those people. In Revelation Jesus says of the lackadaisical church of Laodicea...
15 “ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. - Revelations 3:15–16.
If Jesus were to see us as a fig tree, what kind would we be? Are we the type of believers who produce fruit? Is there evidence of the faith we should have as people who have seen and recognized our savior? I hope that we might answer that question affirmatively, and that we might truly be fruity people.