WHY DID Jesus curse the fig tree for not having any figs when "the time of figs was not yet"?
The account in Mark 11 has stumped many people. But it need not. Rightly understood, it makes very good sense — and carries a valuable lesson for us.
"And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he [Jesus] was hungry: and seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find anything thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it" (Mark 11:12-14). The next day they saw that the fig tree had withered away (verses 20-21).
Jesus was hungry. His active, zealous life burned up plenty of energy. And probably He had not yet eaten anything that day. But He had grown up in the Holy Land. He knew very well when, and when not, to expect to find figs on a tree. It was then only April. The mature fig is not formed until June. Surely Jesus knew there would be no mature figs at that time! "The time of figs was not yet" (verse 13).
But notice that Jesus did not go to the tree expecting to find "figs" — He was looking to see, instead, whether there was "anything" on it. What was the "thing" He expected?
At the time a fig tree puts out new leaves in the spring — whether it is early or late — it already bears the taqsh, the small knobs, or buds, which are the forerunners of the figs that are to grow there. Later they will develop into the early or firstfruit figs (called bicura and boccore) which ripen at the end of June. (While not particularly palatable, these buds may be eaten if one is hungry enough — even when they are very small.) The fig tree in question had put forth leaves early. Jesus could see that from a distance. He had every reason, therefore, to assume He would find undeveloped, but edible, buds or "proto-figs" on it.
However, if the small proto-figs are not present with the earliest leaves, the fig tree will bear no fruit that year. This was a tree that had none. Jesus could see at a glance that the tree was barren, or perhaps diseased. There was no reason for such a tree to continue to exist.
No doubt Jesus remembered the principle He had often reiterated: "Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire" (Matt. 7:19; Luke 3:9). And, "... three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?" (Luke 13:7.) He instantly saw an opportunity to make this tree an object lesson to teach His disciples in a most dramatic and unforgettable way the lesson that our heavenly Father wants us — in our Christian lives — to "bring forth fruit" (John 15:16), to "bear much fruit" (verse 8).
None of Jesus' miracles were done to show off. They were done to teach, not just to impress for the moment. He did not lose His temper, or curse the fig tree out of anger or disappointment at finding no figs. He chose, with purpose, to use this showy, but worthless, tree to symbolize the hollowness, emptiness, barrenness, phoniness, superficiality and pretension of Christians who don't continue to grow, progress and PRODUCE.
Green leaves are not wrong, but there must be fruit with our Christian profession!
The only purpose of a fig tree is to bear fruit. But a barren "Christian" fig tree only deceives and further disappoints other people who are looking for spiritual food and find none.
All such barren "fig trees" — even in the Church of God — are fit therefore only to wither and die; and they shall! They are good for nothing but to be cast into the fire and burned (see John 15:1-6; Heb. 6:7-9).
Did the disciples who heard Jesus curse the fig tree get the point? Apparently at that time they did not. They were so astounded by the power He possessed and used that it excluded almost everything else from their minds.
So Jesus, good and flexible teacher that He was, let it pass, and chose instead to make certain they perceived an alternate message concerning the power of faith and of prayer (see Mark 11:22-26). But later the whole account was written so we could understand today.
Right now is not the "time of figs" for the world. For most people that time will only come with the spiritual harvest which will begin at the end of this present age. (Read our free article "Is This the Only Day of Salvation?")
But individually, we receive our chance for salvation at any time Christ chooses — our only chance. So the time for you or me to be bearing fruit is whenever Christ calls on us — just as it was for the fig tree.
We must through continued union with Christ, through His Spirit, be bringing forth now the fruit of the Holy Spirit. That fruit is love, joy, peace, patience (which often includes suffering long), gentleness, goodness, faith, humility, self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). And it includes much more than many see.