According to the narrative, it was in the morning and Jesus was hungry. They were in the area of Bethpage, which means “House of Figs”, and Bethany which adjoined it. Gospel writer Mark tells us, “And seeing a fig-tree with leaves afar off, He went to it, if perhaps He might find anything on it. And when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season of figs” (11:13, MKJV). He continues, “And Jesus answered and said to it, ‘No one shall eat fruit of you forever.’ And His disciples heard” (v. 14).
If you read those verses too quickly, you would have missed a point of extreme significance. Read them again (and again) and see if you can spot it. Notice that when Jesus came to the tree and found nothing but leaves, He “answered” and spoke to it. Yes, He answered! What was Jesus answering to? Did the tree spoke to Him? If so, what did it say? Our answers rest in the appearance of the tree. Jesus came up to this particular tree because it had leaves on it (see v.13). By having leaves, it promised fruit and so Jesus “went to it, if perhaps He might find anything on it.” However, the narrative tells us that “it was not the season of figs” so why did He expect to find any? The short answer is that “the fruit of the fig tree generally appears before the leaves, and, because the fruit is green it blends in with the leaves right up until it is almost ripe. Therefore, when Jesus and His disciples saw from a distance that the tree had leaves, they would have expected it to also have fruit on it even though it was earlier in the season than what would be normal for a fig tree to be bearing fruit.”
In other words, by having leaves the tree “told” Jesus He could expect to find fruit but “when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves.” As the writers of the JFB Commentary observe, “In this case [the leaves had] prematurely and unnaturally developed.” On a lighter note, one could argue that this was not a good message for the tree to send to a hungry man! One can only imagine that Jesus was not amused and so He “answered and said to it, ‘No one shall eat fruit of you forever.’ And His disciples heard.”
As I reflected on this provocative portion of Scripture, a few questions come readily to mind. Could it be that the situations we encounter, especially the negative ones, are actually speaking to us and we are not consciously aware of it? Why do we feel fear, intimidation, inadequacy, doubt, hopelessness, among other negative emotions? When faced with a negative situation, Jesus answered it. What do you do with yours? Just maybe there is an invaluable lesson from Jesus for us to learn?