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The reading is from the Gospel of Mark 11:12-14, 20-26.

The Accursed Fig Tree by James Tissot

Jesus Curses a Fig Tree – Mark 11:12-14

The next day as they were leaving Bethany he was hungry.

Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf, he went over to see if he could find anything on it. When he reached it he found nothing but leaves; it was not the time for figs.

And he said to it in reply, “May no one ever eat of your fruit again!”

And his disciples heard it.

The Withered Fig Tree – Mark 11:20-26

Early in the morning, as they were walking along, they saw the fig tree withered to its roots.

Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.”

Jesus said to them in reply, “Have faith in God.

Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it shall be done for him.

Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours.

When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may in turn forgive you your transgressions.

[But if you do not forgive, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your transgressions,]

The final verse in the above passage, which reads,

  • “But if you do not forgive, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your transgressions.” (Mark 11:26)

is omitted in the best manuscripts. It was probably added by copyists under the influence of

  • “But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:15)

The passage comprising the combined two verses

  • “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

reflect a set pattern called “Principles of Holy Law.” Human action now will be met by a corresponding action of God at the final judgment.

Jesus’ search for fruit on the fig tree In this passage

  • The next day as they were leaving Bethany he was hungry. Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf, he went over to see if he could find anything on it. When he reached it he found nothing but leaves; it was not the time for figs. And he said to it in reply, “May no one ever eat of your fruit again!” And his disciples heard it. (Mark [11:12–14)

recalls the use of this image by earlier prophets to designate Israel:

  • I will gather them all in—oracle of the LORD: no grapes on the vine, No figs on the fig trees, foliage withered! Whatever I have given them is gone. (Jeremiah 8:13)
  • I will let you find me—oracle of the LORD—and I will change your lot; I will gather you together from all the nations and all the places to which I have banished you— 
  • oracle of the LORD—and bring you back to the place from which I have exiled you. (Jeremiah 29:14)
  • It has stripped bare my vines, splintered my fig tree, Shearing off its bark and throwing it away, until its branches turn white. (Joel 1:7)
  • Like grapes in the desert, I found Israel; Like the first fruits of the fig tree, its first to ripen, I looked on your ancestors. But when they came to Baal-peor and 
  • consecrated themselves to the Shameful One, they became as abhorrent as the thing they loved. (Hosea 9:10)
  • Ephraim is stricken, their root is dried up; they will bear no fruit. Were they to bear children, I would slay the beloved of their womb. (Hosea 9:16)

The Accursed Fig Tree

In Matthew too we find this incidence of Cursing of the fig tree.

The Cursing of the Fig Tree – Matthew 21:18-22

When he was going back to the city in the morning, he was hungry.

Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went over to it, but found nothing on it except leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again.” And immediately the fig tree withered.

When the disciples saw this, they were amazed and said, “How was it that the fig tree withered immediately?”

Jesus said to them in reply, “Amen, I say to you, if you have faith and do not waver, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done. Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.

Cursing the fig tree is a parable in action representing Jesus’ judgment, on barren Israel and the fate of Jerusalem for failing to receive his teaching.

  • All the host of heaven shall rot; the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll. All their host shall wither away, as the leaf wilts on the vine, or as the fig withers on the tree. ( Isaiah 34:4;)
  • Now I will lay bare her shame in full view of her lovers, and no one can deliver her out of my hand. (Hosea 2:12)

In Luke too we have a passage about a barren fig tree.

The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree – Luke 13:6-9

And he told them this parable: “There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. [So] cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’

He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’

This parable of the barren fig tree presents a story about the continuing patience of God with those who have not yet given evidence of their repentance

  • Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance; and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones. (Luke 3:8).

The parable may also be alluding to the delay of the end time, when punishment will be meted out, and the importance of preparing for the end of the age because the delay will not be permanent.

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