The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it. Mark 11:12-14
Have you ever had your hopes dashed? Have you ever expected something to be so great, but when it finally came you were utterly disappointed?
A few years ago, I sat down to lunch with my wife and mom at a restaurant that I enjoyed eating at when I was little. I decided to order the fried chicken dinner that day. When the waiter brought it to our table it looked so delicious. I couldn’t wait to dig in! However, once I took a bite I knew something wasn’t right. The chicken tasted of cleaning chemicals—a far cry from buttermilk and spices. Even though my plate looked like the one in the menu, in reality, it was all for show.
When Jesus became hungry on his way to Jerusalem, he thought he would find some sustenance from a fig tree along the way. He saw the leaves on the tree from a distance. That was a good sign; that meant figs! For fig trees, the leaves and fruit come at the same time. A fig tree doesn’t blossom, instead the fruit is the blossom; it is an inverted flower. But, when Jesus came to the tree He saw that there were no figs for Him to eat, and He cursed the tree. Apparently, the leaves were all for show. The next day, the disciples found that the tree had withered (Mark 11:20-21). Truly, no one would ever eat from that tree ever again.
Now, was this story simply about a fig tree? No, I don’t believe so. It believe it is a lesson for us all. For the people of Israel, the fig tree was a physical representation of their spiritual condition. From a distance things looked great! Just the day before, people were cheering and laying down their cloaks. They were claiming things were ready and in order for the Messiah’s coming. But, upon closer inspection, it became abundantly clear that this was not the case. Do you remember what Jesus did later this same day? He drove out the money changers from the temple courts. The temple was supposed to be a “house of prayer.” Jesus said that it was, in fact, a “den of robbers.”
Like this fig tree, we can be “all leaves and no fruit.” We may look like the greatest Christians to ever walk the face of the earth from a distance, but if Jesus came close would he find any fruit? Is our faith genuine and thriving, or is it all for show? Perhaps the better question is: “when will Jesus’ patience run out before He sends His judgement?”