What use is it? Mark 11:12-14, 20-25

Upon His arrival in Jerusalem, Jesus went immediately to the temple. There He looked around and the Greeks sought an audience with Him (John 12:20-22). When the hour was late, He returned to Bethany with His disciples. The next morning, they returned to Jerusalem. On the way, Jesus felt hungry, and “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 cursed the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." Why did Jesus curse the tree? Wasn’t it unreasonable for Jesus to do so when it was not the season for figs?

They continued on their journey to the temple where Jesus purged it of moneylenders and traders. In the evening, they returned to Bethany. Next morning, as they passed the same place, they saw the fig tree had withered away from the roots up. Why did Mark (the gospel writer) interject the temple cleansing between the two encounters with the fig tree? What relationship (if any) exists between the cursing of the fig tree and the cleansing of the temple?

According to fruit growers, the common fig bears a first crop, called the “breba” crop, in the spring on last season's growth. The second crop is borne in the fall on the new growth and is known as the main crop. From far, the leafy fig tree gave the impression that it had figs but on closer examination, the tree was far from fruitful … Jesus found no fruit. Like the fig tree, the temple was full of promise – there were lots of activities – but on closer examination, these were business transactions for selfish gains. Instead of a house of prayer for all nations, the temple was a den of robbers.

What use is a fig tree if one cannot expect figs? In Luke 13:6-9, the landowner told his vineyard-keeper to cut down a fruitless fig tree. What use is a temple if one cannot expect prayer, true repentance and forgiveness? And what use is a believer if one cannot expect fruit … as evidenced by a transformed life and good works? John 15:8 says, “This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Spiritual Exercise: Do a fruit inspection of your life by listing the changes in your life in the past year. Are these real lasting fruits or appeared-to-be fruits?


Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Alan's Gleanings | Copyright © January 2010 by Alan S.L. Wong

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