Prior to the fruit-bearing season in late spring, fig trees on the eastern side of the Mount of Olives grow green, unripe fruit which bud from last season’s growth. This green fruit develops before new leaves and real fruit follow later that season. Green fruit was a sign that the tree would bear fruit in the coming weeks. During Jesus’ time, these green fruits were often picked off and eaten by peasants or passersby. So when Jesus approaches a fig tree green with mature leaves that can be seen from a distance, He expects to find signs of growth and the promise of a harvest. But when He approaches the tree and finds nothing but leaves on it, He curses it. The leaves on the fig tree give the impression that there should at least be green fruit, if not developing fruit. But alas, the tree has absolutely no fruit.
Jesus curses the tree not because it has no fruit, but because it falsely claims by its foliage to have what it does not. The lesson of the fig tree is a lesson which causes us to examine whether or not our own outward appearance or professions of faith are matched by true inner growth which bring forth a harvest to show for it. The lesson addressed religious leaders who were diligent in ritual and showy in their identity as God’s people, but failed to reflect the heart of God in their deeds. In the same way, the lesson of the fig tree can be applied to all who call themselves believers. Jesus sees the professions of our faith today and examines more closely what we have to show for it. How are we growing in faith? How are we applying His Word in our everyday life? In what ways are we bearing fruit for the Glory of God?
It is a sad thing to live without faith in God, for then, fullness of life in God’s Presence is never experienced. But an even sadder situation is when one pretends to live a life of faith. For here, barrenness is masked by gaudy, empty gestures that mislead others. Are we like the cursed fig tree? Let us not be! Instead, may we be ever focused on seeking Jesus, Who by His Own Word nurtures us and grows us to bear fruit for His Glory.