Why did Jesus kill the fig tree?

“And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.” Matthew 21:19, ESV

This scene takes place the day after Palm Sunday, which was the day Jesus triumphantly rode into Jerusalem on a donkey – “Hosanna in the highest (v.9)!” Perhaps this day could be labeled Fig Tree Monday…

The date isn’t the crucial part, Jesus is.  As Matthew writes it, Jesus was hungry. He probably got excited when he saw the fig tree.  But the fig tree didn’t have any figs.  So he cursed it and it withered away at once.

Why kill the fig tree? 

As I was reading this passage one morning I asked my husband this question. I don’t remember the exact situation, but he was likely putting a jigsaw puzzle together and drinking coffee when I asked him, “Why kill the fig tree?”

I remember he nonchalantly said, “Its an example of judgement and justice.”

I know I responded with, “Huh?”

Pausing to look at me, and take a sip of coffee, he explained, “The fig tree had leaves, it was supposed to have figs on it. Jesus was drawn to it for that reason. But the tree didn’t have any; it was deceitful.”

Thunk. It hit me: Jesus wasn’t talking about the fig tree; He was talking about the people of Israel.  Moreover, he was talking about me –  Jesus was cursing the deceit in our hearts.

The people of Israel were known as God’s chosen. As such, they were supposed to be full of truth and righteousness. Instead they had let self-righteousness and ambition corrupt everything – even the temple had become a “den of robbers (Matthew 21:13).”

Jesus used the fig tree as a metaphor for his followers, which now includes me, centuries later. Giving the appearance of being a Christian doesn’t mean I bear the fruit of it. I can go to church and wear a cross necklace, but am I reflecting Jesus in all that I do – even at work or when I’m impatient in the grocery store – because that is how people see me?  What sort of Christianity am I representing in my everyday actions?  Will Jesus come into my house and flip my tables?

Today’s Challenge:

Look at the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galations 5:22-23).

  • Choose one fruit of the Spirit and practice it all day long. Tomorrow pick another and practice it all day long. (…You get the idea.)
  • Remember, our actions reflect our hearts.  Are our hearts turned toward Jesus or are they turned toward ourselves?

Here’s an encouraging truth: The moment we accept Jesus into our hearts we receive the Holy Spirit; He literally dwells in us. The Spirit is full of power and gladly assists us as we choose to bear fruit for Him.  

Rely on the power of God; it works! 

Seeking to be found in Him,