Why Jesus Cursed the Fig Tree

By Mary Kroeger

Have you ever wondered why Jesus cursed the fig tree shortly before His crucifixion? The obvious reply is because it was not bearing fruit. But it was not yet time for it to bear fruit, so why did Jesus look for fruit before it was time for fruit-bearing? It had lots of leaves, but there was no sign of fruit – no flowers and no buds, just leaves. Is there a hidden spiritual message Christ has for us in His curse on the fig tree?

Let’s go back in history to the first time fig leaves are mentioned in the scriptures. In Genesis three we read that after Adam and Eve sinned, they made aprons of fig leaves to hide their nakedness. The work of their hands became their righteousness. This was the birth of self-effort for producing our righteousness. All our trying to keep the commandments, trying to introduce morality, trying to be good, trying to die to self, etc., do not measure up to God’s standard of righteousness. Just as Adam and Eve’s aprons of fig leaves did not cover their nakedness, so also our aprons of leaves (the work of our hands) do not cover our nakedness. We need more; we need garments of righteousness – the righteousness of Jesus Christ!

When Jesus cursed the fig tree that only produced leaves, He was putting a curse on all self-effort, for it cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit! Our own efforts have an outward show that look like life, but they originate in the death realm of the Adam man, so they cannot produce fruit. Fruit grows out of life, and it is the evidence of healthy life. "Only leaves" is the evidence of an outward show that lacks true life. The fruit of the Spirit can only grow on branches that are abiding in the vine that is Jesus Christ. The good of self-effort is a counterfeit of the good that flows out of righteousness!

People still think the counterfeit is the reality. When we lived in Hong Kong we learned that every big bill was first examined under a light before it was accepted as true money. We too have to put our beliefs and works under the light of Christ to establish their worth! Christ is the truth and everything that is not of Him is a lie veiled to look like truth – the counterfeit. It may look like the reality, but if it does bear the fruit of the Spirit it is nothing but leaves.

Notice that it was not yet time for fruit. At that time Christ’s redemptive work was not yet finished and the Holy Spirit had not yet been poured out.

Since the aprons of fig leaves symbolize humanity’s self-effort to achieve its own righteousness, the fig tree that did not bear fruit symbolizes humanity’s inability to grow spiritual fruit – it cannot produce its own righteousness! God knew this all along, but humanity finds this hard t o believe, so it keeps trying. Christ’s death and resurrection (in His identification with humanity) achieved what man could not do. Where self-effort failed, Christ won the victory!

Christ in us is our hope of glory! The Christ in us is our righteousness, sanctification, redemption and our wisdom! (1 Cor. 1:30) “By grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourself, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2:8)

We thank God that He found a way to give us His righteousness! The curse is on all self-effort to produce our own righteousness. God now wants us to enter His rest and let our works flow out of the righteousness we are in Christ!

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