Withering Fig Trees

I’m currently working my way through reading Mark’s gospel. I read a bit, write comments on verses or ideas that strike me, read a bit more, write a bit more. Once I’ve identified three or four ideas that strike me, I then turn to look for and note what seems to be the primary application or relevance of these verses or ideas for me. Once I’ve tackled that I then turn to prayer and write a prayer that what I’ve read and identified as relevant or applicable may be seen in my life. This process usually takes 20-30 minutes.

This particular pattern is known as REAP for Read, Explore, Apply and Pray. It is very similar to SOAP which equates to Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer. I’ve been REAPing or SOAPing (or the equivalent) on and off for the past couple of years. I tend to intersperse the gospels with reading the epistles or letters, with the occasional Old Testament prophet thrown in for good measure.

I began REAPing Mark’s gospel early last year and then got sidetracked, but I’ve returned to it this year.

The preceding serves as an introduction to what I was reading this morning. In Mark 11 we come across a few verses that have always both intrigued and disturbed me. The verses are Mark 11:12-14

Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” And His disciples heard [it.]

I’ve always considered it quite unfair and unreasonable to expect a fig tree to bear fruit out of season - and then to be killed for it. I couldn’t make any sense of a Biblical account where Jesus cursed a fig tree for apparently doing what it was supposed to be doing. After several minutes of shoulder-shrugging and head-shaking I turned to a one-volume commentary called the Believers Bible Commentary. On these verses the author notes:

Fig trees in Bible lands produced an early edible fruit before the leaves appeared. It was a harbinger of the regular crop, here described as the season for figs. If no early figs appeared, it was a sign that there would be no regular crop later on.

Weird Bible passage sorted. There were to be figs - the harbinger crop - and their absence pointed to the failure of the main crop.