Correspondence

Mark 11:13-14
11. Υ. Β., Liverpool. (a) ' It helps us to understand our Lord's cursing the fig-tree to examine what the prophets did to bring some fact or some prophecy vividly before the people. Take, for instance, Jeremiah. He had long prophesied to the people without effect, he was then told to do something in the presence of the ancients, or elders, of the people and of the priests. He was told to take a potter's earthen bottle, and to carry it forth to the valley of the son of Hinnom, and there to prophesy. Then he was to break the bottle in the sight of the men that went with him, and say, 'c Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Even so will I break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter's vessel, that cannot be made whole again." (Jer. 19:1111And shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Even so will I break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter's vessel, that cannot be made whole again: and they shall bury them in Tophet, till there be no place to bury. (Jeremiah 19:11).)
The Lord Jesus came to His own people and they would not receive Him. The day previous to cursing the fig-tree He had entered into Jerusalem with the people crying, "Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest," This fulfilled the prophecy, " Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt, the foal of an ass." (Matt. 21:55Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. (Matthew 21:5).) The Jews should have remembered this prophecy and should have thus seen its literal fulfillment: but instead of this we read that " when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did [He had just healed the blind and the lame], and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the son of David; they were sore displeased." (Ver. 15.) Then we have the emphatic words, "he left them"
The next morning our Lord being hungry, and " seeing a fig-tree afar off, having leaves, he came if haply he might find anything thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter forever." (Mark 11:13, 1413And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. 14And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it. (Mark 11:13‑14).)
Our Lord knew perfectly well there were no figs on the tree before He went to it, and to denounce it would seem an action unworthy of Him, unless in His so doing there had been an important lesson for them to learn. He had often spoken to the people, and had just been presented to them as their king; but the heads of the nation were only sore displeased at Him. He would now do something that, had they eyes to see it, would vividly portray their coming desolation and destruction.
Israel is the fig tree: this they should have recognized from their own prophecies; see Hos. 9:1010I 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 Baal-peor, and separated themselves unto that shame; and their abominations were according as they loved. (Hosea 9:10) and Joel 1:77He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white. (Joel 1:7). It was quite according to God that when our Lord was here He should have looked for fruit; but, alas! He found none. We are told that the natural fig tree produces fruit before its leaves; and therefore there was, as it were, a pretension of fruit, because the tree had leaves. Israel boasted of being the children of Abraham, of having the law, &a, and despised the nations around as unclean; but it bore no real fruit to God.
It may seem strange, if this is the teaching of the miracle, that our Lord did not explain its meaning to the people, as Jeremiah did when he broke the bottle; but our Lord had already brought before them the fact of their unfruitfulness, and this by the type of a fig-tree. (Luke 13:6-96He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. 7Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? 8And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: 9And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down. (Luke 13:6‑9).) The owner had come for three years seeking fruit, but had found none, and ordered it to be cut down, when the dresser begged for it to be spared for one year more, and then if there was no fruit it should be cut down. Surely this was a type of Israel. Our Lord had labored among them more than three years, and still there was no fruit. He left them, and the tree was cursed.
Some writers speak of the early spring fig as being an especial delicacy, and Isaiah speaks of the hasty [or early] fruit before the summer, which when he that looketh upon it seeth, while it is yet in his hand he eateth it up." (Chap, xxviii, 4.) And the cursing of the fig tree would appear to have been near the time of the passover in the spring. Whereas when our Lord speaks a parable of the fig tree in another connection, he says, " When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh." So that literally the usual time of gathering figs had not arrived, though where there were leaves there should have been fruit.
So in Israel, the time of figs was not yet. There should have been figs, because there were leaves; but the time when Israel will bear fruit for God is yet future. No one could eat fruit of that old stock forever, and yet there will be a shoot of it that will be planted again in that land, that will produce fruit to God; but it will be when they own the One who came seeking fruit and found none. Then will be the time when God will bless Israel, and that will be " the time of figs."
(b) It is said of John the Baptist that there had not been a greater born of woman (our Lord excepted, of course), but it is added, " notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." (Matt. 11:1111Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11:11).) This surely implies that John was not in the kingdom, that which our Lord was announcing. Another passage confirms this: " The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it." (Luke 16:1616The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. (Luke 16:16).) The kingdom of heaven cannot be said to have really begun until Christ was in heaven. When Jesus began to preach He said, " Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand;" and when He sent forth the twelve it was still the same. He told them to say, " The kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt, iv. 17; x. 7.) Israel was taught that, instead of expecting an earthly kingdom at that time, their eyes should be directed to heaven: their Messiah, being rejected by them, could only be found there.