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The parable of the fig tree
Bible Questions - VBVM Staff - January 02, 2010
Q. In Mark 11: 14 Jesus gives the parable of the fig tree. Please help me to understand this parable. Is it dealing with the coming death of Christ?
A. Regarding Mark 11, Jesus caused the fig tree to wither so He could use it as an object lesson for the disciples. Fig trees are used throughout scripture as a picture of the nation of Israel, and a withered fig tree is a picture of God extending His judgment against an unfruitful Israel (see Jer 8:5-13).
When Jesus came upon the fig tree, we're told in Mark that Jesus looked for fruit but only found leaves. Curiously, later in the same verse (v.13) Mark tells the reader that this was not the season for figs. Obviously, Jesus would have known that there would be no figs on the tree out of season, so He "looked" for figs merely to make a point. After finding no fruit, Jesus commanded that the tree wither and die.
Jesus was making a point about the coming judgment against Israel, pictured by a fig tree withering. As a nation, Israel was established by God for the purpose of bearing spiritual fruit, ultimately the fruit of receiving God's Son. Nevertheless, the nation was only interested in pursuing an outward religious lifestyle (i.e., bearing leaves) without showing a true faith in the Messiah (i.e., bearing spiritual fruit). Therefore, the nation was acting hypocritically in putting forth leaves without ever bearing fruit. As a result, God judged the nation for their unbelief (see Luke 13:43-15)
You can study much more on this important topic by listening to several teachings available online. First, listen to Lessons 13B and 21A (or read the teaching notes) from the Gospel of Luke. These lessons give a deeper explanation of how the fig tree pictures Israel and God's judgement of the nation.
Secondly, we strongly recommend you listen to our Ruth series. The book of Ruth is an excellent series for understanding God's plan for the nation of Israel. The Ruth series is relatively short but it should answer many of your questions on this important topic.