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The Gospel of Mark #29 - The Curse of the Barren Fruit Tree

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The Gospel of Mark #29:

The Curse of the Barren Fig Tree

Text: Mark 11:12-26

Thesis: To stress that God wants a person to fulfill his/her purpose inside and out.


(1)   In the summer blockbuster “The Pirates of the Caribbean,” the movie dealt with the curse of the black pearl.

(2)   Many Christians have fallen prey to the curse of the barren fig tree.


I.                   The Story:

A.    On the day after His triumphal entry, Jesus and His disciples return to Jerusalem.

B.     Along the way, Jesus stopped at a fig tree.

1.      Seeing the leaves on the tree, Jesus looked to see if it had any fruit.

2.      Finding no fruit, Jesus cursed the fig tree.

3.      What was the point of this story?

a.       Note: “Mark’s parenthetical statement ‘it was not the season for figs’ alerts the reader/hearer to look for symbolic meaning” (Brooks 182).

b.      “The reason Jesus cursed the barren fig tree was because he wanted it to become a visual parable of what was happening to Israel” (Hughes 2:86).

(1)   The ‘fig tree’ was a standard OT symbol for Israel (Jer. 8:13; 29:17; Hosea 9:10, 16; Joel 1:7; and Micah 7:1-6).

(2)   The ‘leaves’ (i.e., the temple, ceremonies, etc.) only covered its nakedness.

C.     Continuing on to Jerusalem, Jesus went into the temple area and began to “cleanse” the temple.

1.      Jesus had once before done something like this (cf. John 2:13-22).

2.      Understanding the setting:

a.       According to Exod. 30:13-16, every male worshiper over the age of 20 was to give half a shekel.

(1)   A rule was made that one could not use foreign money.

(2)   Thus, one would have to exchange the foreign money for Tyrian coins and would have to pay a charge for this service.

b.      Also, many sacrifices would be offered (e.g., in A.D. 65, Josephus reported that 255,600 lambs were offered in sacrifice); therefore, people were selling animals (e.g., doves, a sacrifice for the poor – Lev. 14:22) and making considerable profit.

c.       All of this was taking place in the outer court (i.e, the court of the Gentiles), where prayer and meditation was supposed to be occurring.

3.      Because of this “circus show,” Jesus began to turn over tables and drive out the people.

a.       As He did this, He quoted Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11 in order to point out the problems that were taking place.

b.      ‘Den of thieves’ refers to “the place to which thieves run when they want to hide. The chief priests and scribes were using the temple and its religious services to ‘cover up’ their sin and hypocrisy”      (Wiersbe 1:151).

4.      As a reaction to this, the people were astonished and the scribes and priests further made plans as to how they might destroy Jesus.

5.      Therefore, Jesus and His disciples return to Bethany for the night.

D.    On the next day, Jesus and His disciples start back to Jerusalem and come upon the same fig tree that Jesus had cursed the day before.

1.      “Mark is careful to tell us that it was withered from the roots, emphasizing the totality of its destruction” (Hughes 2:91).

2.      Peter made the observation that the fig tree had withered away.

3.      Jesus responded by stressing the importance of faith and prayer.

a.       Why does Jesus respond this way?

(1)   Maybe, He is saying, “Despite the cursing of the fig tree (i.e., Israel), continue to trust in God because faith and prayer and not the temple are now the way to God” (Brooks 182).

(2)   Maybe, He is saying, “Without that faith in God, you will wither, you will die from the roots just as the nation of Israel has done” (Schubert 211).

b.      “In Jewish imagery, a mountain signifies something strong and immovable, a problem that stands in the way (Zech. 4:7). We can move these mountains only by trusting God” (Wiersbe 1:150).

c.       Jesus teaches that when one prays, he/she should:

(1)   Pray with a faith that believes that the prayer will be answered.

(2)   Pray with a forgiving spirit.

II.                The Application:

A.    God is not pleased with barren Christians.

1.      Jesus pronounced a woe upon the scribes and Pharisees for being barren (cf. Matt. 23:27-28).

2.      Jesus called upon the Ephesian church to repent for being barren            (cf. Rev. 2:1-7).

B.     To avoid being a barren Christian, we must give proper attention to faith and prayer.

1.      To be fruitful, we must abide in Jesus (cf. John 15:1-8).

2.      To abide in Jesus, we must develop a personal relationship with Jesus.


(1)   If you’ve fallen prey to the curse of the barren fig tree, then you need to be aware of the fact that there is a remedy, Jesus Christ.

(2)   Will you come to Him and be cured?

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