Reflections On A Difficult Gospel Passage: Cursing Of The Fig Tree
The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard him say it. Mark 11:12-14
It is difficult to accept the seemingly out of character behavior exhibited by Jesus on this occasion when He performed a destructive act as opposed to a constructive one. Of course, Jesus had the perfect right and freedom to make what use he chose of the creations of His own power to teach His lessons. But it is because I believe Mark intentionally let it be known that it was not the season for figs that I am inclined to think of this passage symbolically. I think Jesus was demonstrating His judgment which was to come upon Israel (fig tree). The act itself was therefore one of judgment on Israel who continued to adhere to a rigid legalism that had no inward substance. Consequently, Israel was rendered incapable of producing spiritual fruit.
Stein agrees that this text should be approached from a symbolic perspective. But his interpretation takes into account his acquaintance with Mark?s style and surrounding textual passages. He concludes that this is an ?acted out parable meant to teach his disciples the true meaning of the cleansing of the temple. It reveals that the cleansing was an act of Judgment which was coming on Israel.?
Beach also acknowledges that this story symbolizes Jesus? denunciation of Judaism and its expected demise. He, like Stein, recognized Mark?s connection of this story with the story of the temple incident.
McKenzie?s conclusion is virtually the same except that he suggests the story, is in reality, a parabolic saying of Jesus which early tradition transformed into an event.
There are those who interpret this passage as an allegory of the end times.
About the Author: Rev. Saundra L. Washington is an ordained clergywoman, author, social worker, and Founder of AMEN Ministries. To learn more about the author and AMEN Ministries, please visit her site at http://www.clergyservices4u.org.