After leaving Bethany, Jesus sees a fig tree in the distance. He is hungry, so He goes to the tree “to see if He can find anything on it.” (Mark 11:13) He finds only leaves; “for it was not the season for figs.” Then, Jesus curses the tree, “May no one ever again eat fruit from you!” (Mark 11:14)
Jesus expects fruit from the tree even though it is not the proper season for figs. I’ve thought about this many times, usually in passing so as to avoid that nagging suspicion that Jesus is being unfair to the fig tree. Today, I thought about this odd curse again. Why would Jesus expect fruit on a tree during a season in which He should expect to find no fruit?
Jesus expects fruit from His followers. And, there is no season in which we are allowed to remain fruitless. Perhaps we are the fig tree. We may display a lovely canopy of leaves, but Jesus may not find any fruit on our branches. He speaks of the fruitless servant, the one who hides the talent given to him in the ground for fear of his master. The master asks why the servant didn’t at least invest the talent and so earn some sort of return.
We are expected to earn a return on God’s investment in us. Like the fig tree Jesus finds out of season, we are incapable of producing fruit. Unlike the fig tree which does have a season for fruit, we have no fruit producing flowers — our ability to create fruit is entirely dependent upon the gardener, Jesus.
Jesus curses the fig tree because it offers no fruit when God expects it. The fact that it is not the season for figs is actually beside the point. Like the tree out of season, we have no ability to be fruit-bearing; therefore, God has every right to expect a return on His investment. After all, the investment is His, not ours.