The Barren Fig Tree: Mark 11:12-14; 20-26
“12) On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. 13) 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. 14) He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples were listening.
20) As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 21) Being reminded, Peter *said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.” 22) And Jesus *answered saying to them, “Have faith in God. 23) Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. 24) Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. 25) Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. 26) [But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.”]” Mark‬ ‭11‬:‭12‬-‭14‬, ‭20‬-‭26‬ ‭
We now have the story of the Barren Fig Tree. Mark divides the story into two parts. Verses 12-14 sets the stage with Jesus leaving Bethany and heading to Jerusalem. As they traveled, He becomes hungry and approached a fig tree in hopes of eating some figs. Unfortunately, the tree was barren.
Mark notes, “it was not the season for figs.” Nevertheless, Jesus pronounced a curse on the tree; “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” (Vs 13-14) His disciples were listening as He spoke to the tree.
One might consider it strange that Jesus spoke to physical objects. But the record is that He spoke to rushing winds and raging seas. He commanded sickness, diseases and demons. Here He spoke to a fig tree. Later in verse 23, He talked about commanding mountains to move.
I confess, this really stretched me. Some see this as a connection back to Genesis 1:26-31 when God gave mankind world domination. He told Adam to rule over the created realm.
After the fall, everything became very chaotic. Mankind lost control. The many stories of Jesus speaking to the created realm underlined the fact that He retained world dominion. He was in charge and in control. He had authority over the whole realm of creation.
The next morning as they passed by the fig tree, the disciples noticed that the tree was completely withered. In Mark 11:21, Peter said to Him; “Rabbi, behold the fig tree which you curses has withered.”
Jesus used this as an object lesson to teach on faith in God and prayer. He went on to say; “whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.”
This stretches my theology, but Jesus seemed to be telling His disciples to stand in His authority and issue commands to the created realm. Prayer has many facets. It includes both asking and sometimes commanding in the name of Jesus!
Jesus closed this context by teaching about the value of forgiveness. Paul taught that anger and bitterness gives the devil a foothold and grieves the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 4:26-32) Peter added that marriage dysfunction can hinder a man’s prayers. (1 Peter 1:7)
As Jesus approached His final week, it is more than coincidental that He doubled down on teaching His disciples about faith, authority and prayer. He also focused on humble servanthood leadership.
Some spiritualize the story of the Barren Fig Tree. I lean toward taking it at face value and squeezing insights on the multiple facets of prayer, walking in faith and standing in our authority “in Christ.”
The mystery of Jesus speaking to the fig tree is the focal point of this story. It provokes the question, “Do we as believers regain some world dominion through Christ after salvation?” As you wrestle through this question, include Romans 8:12-25 in your research.
I am growing in my understanding of this story related to my prayer life. I am being stretched, but I am starting to embrace my authority “in Christ” and my standing as a redeemed child of God. This includes some degree of regaining world dominion “in Christ.”
Like often happens in the study of Scripture, sometimes the small story is the big story. Such is the case of the obscure story of the Barren Fig Tree which is often overshadowed by the Triumphant Entry. Yet this story speaks volumes! God included it for a reason.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global
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