Mark 11:12-14 and 11:20-24 NKJV states, Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He (Jesus) was hungry. And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find SOMETHING on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And His disciples heard it. Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.” So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”
Throughout His ministry, He used various methods of teaching to impress upon His followers. This particular Monday and Tuesday, the week of His crucifixion was no exception. This time it was a fig tree. Jesus was not simply upset that a fig tree did not have fruit to eat when He was hungry. In fact when casually reading the story, Jesus seems a bit harsh to curse a tree that was not even in season. There is far more to understand here.
First the Scripture says Jesus saw a fig tree from afar. He recognized the tree from a distance, and it certainly looked healthy and robust with many green leaves. He was hoping to find SOMETHING on it. SOMETHING. This occurred on the Passover week-typically in March or April. Fig season, with its ripened fruit is not until May or June. Jesus was aware that fruit would not be there because of time of year; however at this time there would be edible buds that would have satisfied His hunger. SOMETHING. The lack of buds indicated that the tree would not bear fruit that year.
This tree was basically for show- a mirror of many of our lives. We may look healthy and robust from afar, having the appearance of a true follower of Christ, but when people are hungry physically or spiritually, are we in season and bearing fruit to feed them? Are we at least growing and striving to learn more so that we have edible buds to give? God cannot use anyone who only looks the part, leaving people hungry and going away cursing those who left them in want.
Second, Peter seems astonished that a thriving tree withered and was dried up from the roots the very next morning. Perhaps He wondered if Jesus was angry. Anger was an emotion Peter was well acquainted with. Then Jesus utters a seemingly far off statement. “Have faith in God.” Faith defined by Strong’s Concordance #4102 is the Greek word pistis which is a conviction of the truth of anything, belief: of a conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervor born of faith and joined with it. The disciples needed reminding of the convictions of their beliefs because even though Jesus had told them what was coming, their minds did not grasp the enormity of it. In a few short days, their beloved Lord would be arrested, tortured, and murdered on a cross. Faith in God would be crucial to help them cope and recall that He would be resurrected on the third day. Faith in anything else would come up short-themselves, the religious leaders, loved ones, money, reputation, appearance, status. The faith in God that Jesus was referring to was a faith that required an absence of doubt and a belief that God was true to His every word. This kind of faith was capable of moving mountains.
When tested, our faith in God will help us stand. We will mature in trials producing edible buds and in due season, ripe fruit, for a hungry world searching for truth. Do not be a fig tree of appearances only. Have SOMETHING.