The Object Lesson of the Fig Tree

The Object Lesson of the Fig Tree

The Object Lesson of the Fig Tree.

“Now in the morning, as Jesus returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, ‘Let no fruit grow on you ever again.’ Immediately the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, ‘How did the fig tree wither away so soon?’ So Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” (Matthew 21:18-22).

OBJECT: A fig tree, which is a symbol of Israel in the Hebrew Bible, and the most fruitful tree in Israel.

LESSON: While walking along with His disciples one morning, Jesus saw a fruitless fig tree, and immediately thought of this as another teachable moment. He decided to use the fig tree to teach a lesson on fruitfulness in Israel and the power of prayer. After pointing out to the disciples that the fig tree has no figs, He thought symbolic action was called for. He spoke directly to the fig tree, (talking to a tree?), and commanded it to wither and remain fruitless. Jesus is saying here that God is hungry for spiritual fruitfulness in Israel, but He is seeing none of that. There is no fruit of repentance, no fruit of true righteousness. Jesus demonstrated here that the time is coming when Israel will be judged for its unfruitfulness. Just like this particular fig tree, the Temple and all its empty ritual and hollow tradition look good from a distance. But God looks closely, and Israel is lacking in spiritual substance. Just look at the buying and selling in the Temple, displacing worship and prayer. The religious system of Israel looks promising but is actually barren of good fruit. The Temple system is running out of time, and is shriveling up, and will soon be replaced by Christ’s Church full of Gentiles and Jews together, leaving the Temple behind. The prophetic act of cursing the fig tree is dramatic and unexpected, and this is a lesson the disciples will never forget. After their amazement at this fig tree moment, Jesus patiently explained that they shouldn’t be surprised that He could shrivel a fig tree. The power of God can accomplish amazing things, Jesus says. Don’t underestimate what you can achieve through your faithful prayer, He says. I like to think that before walking away from the shriveled fig tree, Jesus talked to it again and restored it to full health. Long after this fig tree incident, the disciples were convinced of the power of prayer. They might not have moved a mountain, but they did turn Jewish society upside down, which was equally miraculous.