Mark 11:12 Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. 13 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. 14 In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.”
And His disciples heard it.
Keep reading that story and you will find that Jesus traveled on to the temple and chased out the money changers and flipped over their tables. The next day when they came back to Jerusalem from Bethany again they passed by the same tree and it was dead from the roots up and the disciples marveled.
Jesus responded by telling them if they had faith they could do anything. All this happened on Monday and Tuesday. He died on Friday. Truly we are in the shadows of the cross and Jesus is killing trees?
Return a few verses back and you find that Sunday was the grand entrance on the colt. The city was in a frenzy. For generations they had talked about their Messiah and how he would arrive and this was it! By now even though Jesus had spent very little time in Jerusalem He was a legend. Most recently He actually brought a man alive from the grave 4 days after his burial. Sure there was lots of controversy and the church had actually threatened to throw anyone out who professed to believe in Him but when Jesus entered the city the same way Solomon began his reign and the same way Zechariah said the Messiah would enter there was no holding back the crowd. They shouted His praises. They threw their coats and palm branches before Him. You can imagine the confusion of the disciples now. He said He was coming here to die and now this?
Then we are told that evening, Sunday evening, before leaving the city to return to Bethany He entered the temple courts and just looked around, quietly taking in the scenes. He had less than a week and He k ew it. It was like He was silently planning out His final moves.
He wasted no time on Monday. He cursed a fruitless tree, trashed the outer court of the temple and then taught those who remained, those who could now hear because the market place was gone.
The next day they passed by that cursed tree and it was dead.
What do we do with that? Jesus cursed the tree because even though it had leaves there was no fruit. I had to prepare a sermon on this story back in college. I had no idea what it was about so I went to the library and started digging. It turns out fig trees grow their fruit first and then the leaves come. It was spring. Mid April. Really it was too early for figs in that area but the this particular tree had leaves. It was the leaves that attracted Him. Leaves meant fruit. With hunger and expectation He went to the tree. You know how it is when hunger meets anticipation of food. He was already salivating. His body was preparing to be fed. Then nothing.
Can you see it? That tree was just like the city of Jerusalem and the temple specifically. It advertised substance but there was nothing. People came from all over seeking God only to find a market place. They came to seek His blessing only to find big business with no product. Leaves but no fruit. Temple but no king. A holy building but no Holiness inside.
Just as the fig tree was exposed for what it truly was, a barren tree, so Jerusalem was a out to be exposed for what it had become. A den of robbers. A high place of hypocrisy. A monument to everything that is wrong in this world.
Recently my dad bought some other brand of duct tape. It looked like duct tape. It presented as duct tape but it was absolutely useless. It wouldn't even stick to itself. Often people flee from God because of hypocrisy, because of places that advertise one thing but produce something else. In cliché terms they throw the baby out with the bathwater. What they forget is that the fake proves the true. My dad never would have been drawn to that silver roll of tape had he not experienced the genuine. No one makes cheap copies if there isn't first something to copy.
Yes the world is full to overflowing with bad religion. It fills the airwaves and the TV screens. Churches professing to represent God and to exist for the benefit of the people are run by men who see it and use it as a means to either get rich, control people, or both. This does not prove God doesn't exist. It proves He does. And just as Jesus came back then to turn the tables and then the world upside down, so will He return. The wrongs will be righted. The fakes will be exposed. The truth will be known, and best of all the gnawing soul hunger of all those hurt by trees with leaves and nothing else will finally be satisfied. They will see Him face to face, the One they knew existed all along.