When I was a theology student, one of my favorite topics was Jesus’ parables. I learned that
every parable that Jesus talked of had a deeper meaning. The parable of him cursing the
unfruitful fig tree, as recorded in the book of Mathew and Mark, stood out for me. I was curious
to find out why he did so. Today, as a pastor, many of my students that I have taught about this
parable often ask, “did Jesus curse the fig tree?”
In this article, I will discuss the context and symbolism of the fig tree parable. Join me as we
delve into this topic and learn the meaning of the fig tree parable and what happened to the fig
tree after Jesus cursed it. You will also discover valuable lessons from the curse of the fig tree
and the relevance of the fig tree parable in this article. Keep reading to discover whether Jesus
knew it was not fig season before he cursed the fig tree. Here is more!
What is the context and symbolism of the fig tree parable?
The parable of the fig tree is recorded in the book of Mathew 21:18-19, “Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” immediately, the tree withered.”
To understand why Jesus cursed the fig tree, it is essential to look at the context of the fig tree parable. All this happened during the week that Jesus was set to be crucified. He had entered Jerusalem a day earlier when the Jewish people were worshipping, praising, and looking to him as the Messiah who would deliver them. All this is recorded in the book of Mark 11:1-11 and Mathew 21:1-11.
The next day, Jesus left Bethany, where he was staying, for Jerusalem. The gospels of Mathew and Mark record that on his way to Jerusalem, he was hungry and saw a fig tree with leaves. However, upon arriving at the fig tree, Jesus and the disciples that the tree had produced no fruits, so Jesus went ahead and cursed it.
Though both the gospels of Mark and Mathew record the accounts of the fig tree, the book of Mathew records the fig tree withering immediately after the curse, while the gospel of Mark explains that the tree withered a day after it was cursed.
After looking at the context, we can discuss what the fig tree parable symbolizes. Theologians argue that the parable of the fig tree symbolizes a spiritually barren nation. Jesus says in the book of Luke 13:3 that if we do not repent, then we will perish (just like the fig tree withered).
In the Old Testament, the fig tree symbolizes the nation of Israel. Hosea 9:10 says, “When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert; when I saw your ancestors, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree. But when they came to Baal Peor, they consecrated themselves to that shameful idol and became as vile as the thing they loved.”
What is the meaning of the fig tree parable?
Theologians from the gospel coalition ministries note that Jesus cursing the fig tree was a way of portraying a spiritually barren nation. A spiritually barren nation is a nation that is no longer fruitful in Christ, meaning it is not generating any worth to the Kingdom of God. John 15:16 says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, and so whatever you ask in my name the father will give you.”
Jesus teaches in John 15:5-8 that he is the true vine, and whoever is in him and abides in him should bear fruit or will wither. He also notes that whoever does not abide in him won’t bear any fruits, and he will be cut and thrown away like a branch and eventually wither.
What happened to the fig tree after Jesus cursed it?
As mentioned above, the fig tree withered after Jesus cursed it. However, the two gospel books that account for this parable differ when it came to when it withered. Mathew notes that the fig tree withered immediately after being cursed, while Mark notes that the disciples found out the following day that the fig tree had withered.
Mathew 11:19-20 reads, “When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city. In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots.”
Either way, the disciples were surprised at how just word of mouth could cause a fig tree to wither. Jesus told them that they could do more than what happened to the fig tree through faith.
What lessons can Christians learn from the curse of the fig tree?
A key lesson that the parable of the fig tree teaches Christians is to bear fruit and repent. As mentioned above, theologians note that this parable symbolizes a spiritually barren nation. However, Christ wants us to bear fruits and repent, or we will perish just like the fig tree.
Luke 3:8-9 says, “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, we have Abraham as our father, for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now, the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree, therefore, that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Furthermore, the gospel Luke 13:3 urges us to repent, or we shall perish like the fig tree that was cursed. Jesus is clear that he is the true vine, we have to be in him for us to bear fruits. The father prunes anyone who does not abide in his teachings and will wither and perish. Therefore, not only do we have to bear fruit, but we have to stay in Christ.
Additionally, Jesus used the parable of the fig tree to teach Christians to learn to ask anything they want in faith through prayer. Just after the fig tree had dried and withered, Jesus said in Mathew 18:20-22, “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
What is the relevance of the fig tree parable to Christians?
The relevance of the fig tree parable to Christians is that we should always bear fruits in Christ and hold on to our faith. After Jesus had cursed the fig tree and it had, he told his disciples that it took faith to do that. Mark 21:21 says, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, be taken up and thrown into the sea, it will happen.”
Theologians from Got Question Ministries note that the relevance of the fig tree parable was to remind us to have faith in God and b fruitful while in him. The Bible is clear in the book of Hebrews 11:6 that it is hard to please God if we do not have faith. Therefore, for anyone to enjoy the rewards of God, they must believe he exists, and he rewards those who seek him diligently.
Did Jesus know it was not fig season before he cursed the fig tree?
Bible readers argue that Jesus might not have known it was not fig season. This is because fig trees bear fruits before the leaves or with the leaves, and because the fruit is green, you can hardly differentiate it from the leaves. So when Jesus saw the leaves from afar, and he was hungry, he expected to find fruits on them. Therefore, it might be safe to argue that he did not know it was not fig season when he proclaimed the curse.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.