On Monday, Jesus entered the Temple for a second time, but before He does, He curses a fig tree. The night before Jesus visited the Temple and this following morning on the way to the Temple, Jesus came from Bethany and He was hungry. “And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.”(Mark 11:12-14).
It’s worth noting at this stage, that the cursing of the fig tree in the Gospel according to Matthew takes place after Jesus has visited the temple and turned over the tables. Throwing out the money changers for their corruption and robbing God in the process. The meaning of these two events is more important than the order, however, the way Mark orders the events in a chiastic structure causes us to see the central point that Jesus made.
The Fig Tree
What we witness with Jesus and the fig tree is the expectation of finding fruit and the reality of their being no fruit. When the disciples ask about this, on the following day as they looked at the cursed fig tree all withered away to its roots. The chiasm is formed. The pattern is one where on both sides of Jesus being in the Temple we have Jesus and the fig tree. The fig tree is used as an illustration of what will happen to those in the temple, the place where spiritual fruit is expected, Jesus finds no fruit only corruption. The temple and its practices will come to an end like the fig tree. Israel so often represented as a fig tree (Jer 8:13 / Hos 9:10) now faces the same end as the fig tree Jesus cursed.
It’s tempting to believe that when Jesus throws out the money changers and overthrows their tables, and then says “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of robbers.” (Mark 11:17) (Jeremiah 7:11 / Isaiah 56:7). That they are robbing those who come to the temple to exchange their money to buy suitable animals to make an acceptable offering and this could be true. But the emphasis is on how these leaders are robbing God of receiving praise through prayer and therefore they are robbing the people of being able to pray there as well.
What looks like a religious service for the people who seek to make sacrifices is nothing more than a form of corruption. In the hustle and bustle of the temple activities, the fruitless condition of those there cannot be hidden from the Messiah. Because of this the chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way to destroy Him as they understood the change it was having on the crowds of people who were astonished at His teaching.
Fig tree: Matt 21:18-19; Mark 11:12-14
Temple: Matt 21:-12-13; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45-48