12 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it. 15 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-
The fruitless fig tree
Travelling back to Jerusalem from Bethany the next day, Jesus is hungry. A fig tree in leaf is figless. Jesus curses it by saying May no one ever eat fruit from you again. Palestinian fig trees bear early crops of immature fruit, appearing before the leaves, which provide food for the peasants. This tree is barren. The fig tree also symbolises Israel, God’s chosen people, who also are fruitless. Perhaps Jesus indicates God’s displeasure with them by cursing the tree?
Putting the temple right
Jesus activates His plan to purify the temple. Commercial transactions, selling pigeons for sacrifice, money changing, and dishonest dealings replace worship and prayer there. Like the fig tree and Israel, it is also fruitless. Jesus drives out the buyers and sellers, overturns the tables of the money changers, and upends the pigeon sellers’ seats. He complains, Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers. He forbids the use of the temple as a shortcut for commercial traffic, knowing that purifying it will incur the Jewish religious leaders’ opposition. They want Him dead. Because His teaching astonishes the crowd they fear Him even more. Christians also must sometimes publicly stand for what is right, thereby facing unpopularity and opposition.
The Bible teaches that born again Christians’ bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, as God resides within. Every real Christian is bought by Christ’s blood and indwelt by God’s Spirit. This temple passage reminds Christians to honour God with the way they keep and use the ‘temples’ of their bodies.
Back to the fig tree
Jesus and His disciples leave Jerusalem that evening. Returning the next morning, they see that the cursed fig tree withered already. Peter tells Jesus, who immediately teaches the disciples that God can do the impossible. They must trust Him when praying. God answers prayer and moves mountains in their lives. Jesus emphasises the need to forgive anyone who has wronged them, before starting to pray. Their prayers can only be heard because God has forgiven their sins. We also must forgive others.
The authority of Jesus
Back in Jerusalem’s temple the chief priests, scribes and elders ask Jesus where His authority comes from. If He says ‘from God’ they will say He is blaspheming or mad. If He answers differently they will claim that He has no authority. Jesus’ response turns the tables again! Was John the Baptist’s authority God-
 . Jesus’ curse of the fig tree is not bad language or temper. It is His expression of judgement to come.
 . In fact the only Christian known to the Bible is a ‘born again Christian.’ With out being born again, like Nicodemus we can neither ‘see’ (= ‘understand’) nor ‘enter’ the ‘kingdom of God.’ Read John 3: 3 and 5.
 . 1 Corinthians 6:19-
 . The meaning here of ‘from heaven’.
Questions on Chapter 37
33 Straight talk.
A. From this passage what lessons can you learn from the fig tree and about Jesus? Mark 11:12-
B. Why is Jesus so strongly opposed to the misuse and abuse of the temple? As the Christian’s body is referred to as ‘the temple of the Holy Spirit’ in 1 Corinthians 6:19, how does the way Jesus regards the temple challenge Christians today? Mark 11:15-
C. What can you learn from Jesus about how to answer a tricky question intended to trap you? Mark 11:27-