Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” – Mark 11:21
Today in Mark, we see Jesus in a very uncharacteristic tone, condemning a fig tree when it did not bear fruit out of season. To take this scene literally casts a shadow on Jesus, and shows him to be as petulant as a child. But, if we are to take Jesus as he claims himself to be, the Son of Man, the Messiah; or even at the level of a prophetic teacher, we must look beyond his actions to find the lesson.
Perhaps it would be helpful to remind ourselves of Jesus’ telling of the parable of the barren fig tree, and the Master who wants to cut it down because it is of no use (Luke 13:6-9). The vinedresser convinces the Master to let it stay another season, giving it care that it may yet produce fruit for his master. What if Jesus meant the condemnation of the fig tree in today’s reading as an extension of that parable?
The people of Israel have been given a chance – or chances, again and again called to faithfulness, and again and again failed. Moses reminds us of this, the Israelites failing to enter the promised land because of their wavering in faithfulness wandered for forty years in the desert.
Jesus may be pointing to the fig tree as an example of Israel, a people who have been singularly cultivated by God himself, and are failing in their bringing forth fruit of faithfulness? Just as a fruitless tree is good for nothing than to be thrown into the fire for kindling, so the life a follower of God is good for nothing if it too bears no fruit.
May God Bless you.