Today's devotion from Mark 11. There are a couple of interesting items in this chapter that could serve as the focal point for our devotion. The triumphal entry, the cleansing of the temple, the scheming of the Pharisees, and His refusal to answer their question are all strong candidates. However, as I read through this chapter and thought about what it contained, there was one event that always seems so odd and out of place that I couldn't leave it alone.
Why did Jesus curse the fig tree?
It seems unnecessary and awkward. Why would Mark include this event? Why would Jesus curse it? Why would Peter, who has seen Jesus heal the sick, cast out demons, walk on water, command a storm, and even call the dead back to life, be so amazed to see the fig tree had done as He demanded? The answer is in what happens between the curse and the withering.
From afar, Jesus sees the green fig tree that promises fruit, but when He gets close and inspects it, there is no fruit. He is apparently not surprised by this lack, because Mark intentionally informs us that it is not the season for figs to bear fruit. After the cursing, Jesus enters the temple, sees the melee it has become, and cleanses it leading to the plotting of the religious leaders. The next day, that which Jesus has spoken came to pass.
Think about what this event is saying. From afar, the goings on in the temple might seem fruitful. People would be flocking there in hopes of having their hunger sated. Yet, when they arrive there is no good fruit. There is no hope, only disappointment. Jesus will remedy that. No one will look on this deceptive shoot again, just as Jesus' condemnation of these predatory practices that had deprived the temple of its true power, that is, to be a house of prayer for all nations.
Yes, Jesus had come near and found the vestiges of religion absent the satisfaction of fruitful worship. This event is symbolic not only of Jesus' condemnation of these practices, but of the entire system which had been corrupted. When Jesus cried out and the veil was torn, the old ways gave way to true hope.