Jesus is not a fig person. Did you know this? Don't go offering him any flavor of Fig Newton. KIDDING.
But he cursed a fig tree. That part is true. In fact, it's considered one of his MIRACLES! Let's check it out.
WHO ARE THE PLAYERS IN THIS WEIRD TALE?
Jesus, his disciples, and one unlucky out-of-season fig tree.
WHERE IS THIS IN THE BIBLE?
Matthew 21:18-22 ; Mark 11:12-14 and 11:20-25
WHAT'S THE BACKSTORY?
Jesus and his disciples are on the way to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Jesus knows that he's going to be betrayed, crucified, and brought back to life, and even though he's trying to warn the disciples about it (Mark 10:32-34), the disciples aren't getting it.
AND NOW OUR STORY BEGINS!
Jesus and the disciples leave Bethany and are heading to Jerusalem for the day and Jesus, perhaps annoyed and agitated at knowing his death is near and nobody believes him, sees a fig tree. He's hungry, so he goes to check it out, and OOPS, no figs on the fig tree. "Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it." (Mark 11:14)
Jesus and his possible bad mood continue on to Jerusalem, where he overturns the money changers' table in the temple. He says "“Is it not written: “‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Mark 11:17). Jesus is upset because the moneychangers have essentially monetized and created commerce out of religion (moneychangers are there to exchange money from people needing to purchase animals for sacrificial temple offerings) but I personally think it's because he's still pissed at the lying fig tree and still possibly hungry. KIDDING.
Jesus and company return to Bethany for the evening, and the next day, travel to Jerusalem again (it’s kinda like visiting a theme park on a vacation, you sleep somewhere else, and keep traveling back for the day).
Eagle Eyed Peter the disciple, sees the very same fig tree that Jesus cursed 24 hours ago. It’s now withered and dead. Jesus then says the famous line that has blown up little elementary school brains in Sunday School class, “22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.” (Mark 11:22-23)
WHY IS THIS WEIRD TALE IN THE BIBLE?
There’s a few things at work here.
Jesus was pissed at the fig tree, because it was giving the appearance as having figs on it, even though figs weren’t in season. Jesus was hungry, got fooled by a anti-producing fig tree, and cursed it.
This could mean that this particular fig tree was of the DEVIL HIMSELF! AND THE DEVIL USES FIGS FOR HIS OWN PURPOSES, SO NO, I DON’T HAVE TO EAT THAT FIG NEWTON!
(Can you tell I’m not a fan of Fig Newtons?)
The fig tree is supposed to represent a certain kind of believer in the nation of Israel – one who looks right on the outside and says all the right things (Hi! I’m an out of season fig tree that looks like I might have figs for you to eat!), but inside is rotten and bears no metaphorical fruit (Gotcha! I got no figs on me! Sucker!) Jesus is not a fan of this type of person. Neither is God, and the withered fig tree is symbolic of what will happen to God’s chosen people should they be similarly hypocritical.
Cursing the fig tree is supposed to represent God’s power at work through Jesus. It’s as if God is saying Hmmmm? You want this fig tree cursed because it looked like it had figs on it and it didn’t? No problem, here’s a dose of My power for ya to amaze your family and friends with.
Finally, it’s about faith, hence that “Hey, Mountain! Go throw yourself into the sea!” verse 22 and 23. Ooooooooh, never a good idea to tell a Sunday School class of eight-year-olds that. Then they run around ordering mountains, trees, bushes, squirrels etc, to do things that will never happen, and then get all upset that they just must not have enough faith. Or did that only happen to me? JJJ
Myself, I just get tickled over the fact that here we see Jesus being a normal human being. He can get tricked like anybody else. You would think that since he’s Jesus, and has a direct line to God, he would have known that fig tree didn’t have any fruit on it. And if you wanna get all Happy Chipper Annoying Christian about it, you can always blab the safe theory of he DID know, but wanted to use this as an opportunity for another miracle, to display God’s awesome power! Yawn.
I like the idea of Jesus getting mad. The one two punch of cursing the fig tree and clearing the moneychangers out of the temple reassures me that yes, Jesus got angry, just like regular people. He’s not always a safe Teddy Bear Jesus Loves The Little Childreeeeeeeeen kind of guy. He was human. He was real.
So yeah, dooming an out of place fig tree seems weird, but upon further examination, is kinda cool.
And I did eat a bacon-wrapped fig once. It was alright.