"Meanderings in Mark"
Series on Mark, Lesson 43
The Useless Fig Tree
Read: Mark 11:1-26
Text: (Mark 11:20 KJV) And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.
Theme: To reject your Messiah is to invite eternal judgement.
Before reading scripture:
Question - There have been many important weeks in history. Name some?
Question - What was the most important week in history? Why?
Answer - Try to draw out fact that Passion Week was the most important week in the history of the world.
READ - Mark 11:1-26
Question - Why is the incident described in 7-10 significant?
Answer - Jesus is for the first time openly declaring Himself to be the Messiah.
Question - In the midst of this passage there is a lot of teaching on prayer (e.g. Vs. 17, 22-26). What did Jesus teach us about prayer here?
Answer - Corporate and private prayer are both important.
Answer - Faith is mandatory to prayer (22, 24)
QUOTE (Ironside) - "Faith counts the things that are not as though they are."
Answer - Results are limitless with prayer (23-24)
Answer - An unforgiving spirit hinders success in prayer (25-26)
(Eph 4:32 KJV) And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
Question - Verse 11 has the phrase "looked round upon all things" which is unique to Mark's gospel. Is it significant? Why?
Answer - Jesus was inspecting the temple and behaving as One who had authority to do so.
Question - Verse 11 also mentions that the 12 were still with him. Why is this significant?
Quote (Barclay) - "This brief passage also shows us something about the Twelve. They were still with him. By this time it must have been quite plain to them that Jesus was committing suicide, as it seemed to them. Sometimes we criticize them for their lack of loyalty in the last days, but it says something for them, that, little as they understood what was happening, they still stood by him."
QUESTION - Why?
QUESTION - Warren Weirsbe asks, "If He had the power to kill the tree, why didn't He use that power to restore the tree and make it produce fruit?"
William Barclay in his commentary on Mark has great difficulty with this incident. (This is one reason why Barclay has to be taken with a grain of salt sometimes. He shies from literal interpretation when it becomes difficult. However, His thoughts here provide interesting discussion material.):
QUOTE (Barclay) - "There can be no doubt that this, without exception, is the most difficult story in the gospel narrative. To take it as literal history presents difficulties which are well-nigh insuperable. (1) The story does not ring true. To be frank, the whole incident does not seem worthy of Jesus. There seems a certain petulance in it. It is just the kind of story that is told of other wonder-workers but never of Jesus. Further, we have this basic difficulty. Jesus had always refused to use his miraculous powers for his own sake. He would not turn the stones into bread to satisfy his own hunger. He would not use his miraculous powers to escape from his enemies. He never used his power for his own sake. And yet here he uses his power to blast a tree which had disappointed him when he was hungry. (2) Worse, the whole action was unreasonable. This was the Passover Season, that is, the middle of April. The fig-tree in a sheltered spot may bear leaves as early as March, but never did a fig-tree bear figs until late May or June. Mark says that it was not the season for figs. So why blast the tree for failing to do what it was not possible for it to do? It was both unreasonable and unjust. Some commentators, to save the situation, say that what Jesus was looking for was green figs, half-ripe figs in their early stages, but such unripe fruit was unpleasant and was never eaten. The whole story does not seem to fit Jesus at all. What are we to say about it?"
DISCUSS the above.
I. Your King has come!
A. Jesus now DECLARED Himself to be Israel's Messiah.
(Zec 9:9 KJV) Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.
(Other times He had discouraged such displays. Cf. Mark 1:25, 34, 44, 3:11-12)
B. Jesus has declared Himself to be YOUR King.
(Isa 9:6 KJV) For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
(Rev 19:16 KJV) And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
II. You may reject Him if you wish.
A. The Jews, though seeking the Messiah, rejected Him.
1. Some didn't.
2. Most did.
READ Mark 15:29-32
ILLUS. Jews at western wall (Wailing Wall) - seeking a Messiah, but He has already come and they reject Him.
ILLUS. Quote from movie The Fiddler on the Roof, "Rabbi, we've been waiting for the Messiah all our lives. Wouldn't now be a good time for him to come?" - But He's already come, and they reject Him.
B. Gentiles also rejected Him.
1. Some didn't.
ILLUS. - Syrophoenician woman with "great faith" - Matthew 15:21f
ILLUS. - Centurion with "great faith" - Luke 7:1f
2. Most did.
ILLUS. - Pilate considered Jesus a Jewish king only with no thought that He might be His king. Was this the prevailing attitude among Gentiles? Cf. John 19:19-22
QUESTION - Do these attitudes of rejection of the Messiah exist today?
QUESTION - What are some ways that people today reject their king?
C. Many today reject Him, when He comes to them.
1. When He comes through preaching.
2. When He comes through soul winners.
3. When He comes through family / loved ones.
ILLUS. My wife had an aunt whose lost condition became a concern to her. She wrote her a letter, expressing her love and concern for this aunt's soul, and encouraging her to trust Christ. The aunt wrote back a not-so-nice letter indicating that my wife should mind her own business. She flatly rejected Christ and indicated so in the letter. Sad.
D. You have free will to reject your King!
(John 1:10-12 KJV) He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
(John 3:18 KJV) He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
(John 3:36 KJV) He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
(1 John 5:11-12 KJV) And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
III. You invite judgement if you reject Him.
A. Cursed fig tree is hard for some to understand.
1. Was Jesus "mad" because He was hungry? NO
2. This was only the second time one of His miracles was destructive.
QUESTION - What was the other?
ANSWER - sending the legion of pigs into the sea
3. This miracle pictured Jewish people.
(Hosea 9:10 KJV) I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time: but they went to Baalpeor, and separated themselves unto that shame; and their abominations were according as they loved.
(Nahum 3:12 KJV) All thy strong holds shall be like fig trees with the firstripe figs: if they be shaken, they shall even fall into the mouth of the eater.
(Zec 3:10 KJV) In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbour under the vine and under the fig tree.
B. The cursed fig tree teaches us some simple lessons.
QUESTION - What lessons are taught by this miracle?
1. You should keep your word. (Barclay - "unfulfilled promise")
2. You should have inward spirituality, not just outward religion. (Barclay - "profession without practice")
C. The cursed fig tree also gives us a clear warning.
QUESTION - What warning is given by this miracle?
1. Judgement awaits those who do who accept their king.
2. Judgement will be complete. (vs. 20)
(Rev 21:8 KJV) But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
3. Judgement will be forever. (vs. 14)
(Mat 25:41 KJV) Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
(Mat 25:46 KJV) And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
(Mark 9:44 KJV) Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
(Rev 20:10 KJV) And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
(Mark 11:20 KJV) And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.
Please direct questions, comments, and submissions to William E. Johnson
Copyright © 1998 William E. Johnson.