(Study Outline sourced from “The System Bible Study” – “The Book of Life” [Zondervan])
3. Cursing The Barren Fig Tree And The Second Cleansing Of The Temple
The next day (Monday) as Our Lord Jesus left Bethany on His way to Jerusalem, Mark records that “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” further commenting that it was not the season for figs.
Fig(Heb. te’ena; Gk. sukon). The fruit of the well-known tree. It is one of the favorite kinds of food in the East and, in the dried state, a considerable article of commerce. The failure of the fig trees was a national calamity. Their productiveness was a token of peace and the divine favor. They are associated with the vine, the palm, and the pomegranate. The fig tree differs from most other fruit trees in that its fruit is green and inconspicuous, concealed among leaves until near the time of ripening. If the promise given from a distance by the leaves is not fulfilled on approaching (Mark 11:13), the tree is a hypocrite. Such a one our Savior cursed. (from New Unger’s Bible Dictionary) (originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (C) 1988.)
In the O.T. book of the prophet Hosea, God uses the Fig tree and its fruit as a picture of the nation of Israel and its relationship to Him, “When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert; when I saw your fathers, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree…”, so it is possible that our Lord is here using the barren Fig tree as a parable of coming judgment upon the nation because of their unbelief and fast approaching total rejection of their Messiah, and this is further indicated in His cleansing of the temple.
“When Jesus came to the nation of Israel, there were leaves which speak of profession, but there was no fruit for God” [Believer’s Bible Commentary – Wm McDonald]
Thus there was the outward evidence of spiritual failure – “leaves”, and the inner cause of such failure – the corruption of the Temple!
“On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.”
“It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.'” Our Lord quotes from the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. Isaiah speaks of a future day when God will extend His blessings upon a people who were called “heathen”, “foreigner” or “gentile” who would be brought under the blessings of Israel , and Jeremiah asks the question “Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you?” We see here that the rulers of the Temple had made it difficult for the people to worship by demanding that they purchase their animals and birds for sacrifice, using the “money-changers” or “bankers”(Thayer’s definition) to collect the money. Jeremiah adds “But I have been watching! declares the LORD.” God had seen the desecration of His House and had now come in judgment on those who were responsible.
Again it is recorded that the, “The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.” .