Why Did Jesus Curse a Fig Tree?

Mark 11, 12-26

-He was hungry.
-The Tree was not in season for figs.
-Jesus had a “reply” to what? The tree’s statement that it had no fruit for Him? … to Peter for
a question or statement that was not included in the text?
-His “reply” seemed to be to the tree and it was a “curse”?
-Why would Jesus “curse” a tree that is not in season? What don’t I know about this specific tree? What is contained in the New Testament that gives me understanding?
-Did Jesus know that they walk by the same tree in a day or so? That a withered tree would provide learning for Peter?
-How is the teaching of Jesus really applicable to the tree’s death?
-How would it have been different if he had simply spoke to the tree and said “Bear Fruit”? and had the same conversation with Peter in Mark 11, 22-26?

-Is this passage one that shows us his true humanity? He was hungry and didn’t like that the tree had no figs?

I am hungry for understanding and not liking where my logic is going.

Mt. 21: 18-20 also relates this incident. The Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary has this to say about it:

Ver. 18. In the morning, returning into the city, he was hungry. This hunger, though real and pressing, was mysterious, and affords an opportunity of giving instruction both to the Jews and to all his disciples. By the fig-tree, was represented the Jewish synagogue; the hunger of Christ was a figure of his extreme desire of finding it productive of good works, (and there is no time nor season when the servants of God can be excused from bringing forth good works) answerable to the pains of cultivation he had taken for more than three years. The leaves were their pompous shew of exterior service, the barren foliage of legal rites, void of the internal spirit and good works, the only valuable produce of the tree. By the withering of the tree subsequent to Christ’s imprecation, the reprobation and utter barrenness of the synagogue are represented. St. Mark observes, (xi. 13,) that it was not the season for figs; nor are we to suppose that our Saviour went up to the tree expecting to find fruit; but if some of the evangelists mention this circumstance, they only relate the surmises of the disciples. Though he had before shewn his power by innumerable miracles, Christ still thought this necessary to excite the hearts of his disciples to greater confidence. He had often exercised his power to do good, but now for the first time shews himself able to punish. Thus he testifies to the apostles and to the Jews themselves, that he could with a word have made his crucifiers wither away, and therefore that he willingly bore the extremity of the sufferings he should in a few days have to undergo. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxviii.)

Jesus was showing that he was the master of life and death, so his disciples would realize that he was to give his life for us, not simply have it taken away, and that he could have easily have destroyed his enemies but chose not to, but rather forgave them for denying him and crucifying him.

I will have to research the Old Testament connections to the fig tree metaphor… but still Jesus explanation to Peter doesn’t seem to reflect a parable about Israel’s refusal to accept his teachings… rather, it is about someone who already believes and prays. It is about a challenge to a Believers deepest faith and that with that deep faith… anything can be accomplished. So… the death of a fig tree to a fisherman, a farmer and a herder is understood as a metaphor about Israel’s refusal to accept Jesus teachings? all I can say is “Oh Please”… and with that… I need more connection. Further, if Jesus was recalling Old Testament connections to Fig Trees… why didn’t he explain any of this to the not to witty Apostles?

Well, your devotional take on it is as good as anyone else’s, so if that’s what helps you, fine. The Church has no definitive interpretation for this passage because none is needed, since it does not speak to doctrine/dogma, but to how Jesus chose to teach a lesson to his disciples. It’s all one to me. :shrug:

Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, wrote about that passage in his book “Friends of God”. See pages 201 through 203 at the link below…


I learned about this in a verse-by-verse commentary:

A mature fig tree has 2 crops. The first crop of figs forms together with the leaves. The second crop forms before the leaves drop, so there should always be figs as long as there are leaves. When the verse says “it was not the time for figs” a horticulturist would understand that it was also not the time for leaves. Yet by showing leaves, it was advertising that it had fruit.

Since it did not have the fruit it advertised, Jesus cursed it. We should take away a warning that if we profess our faith but do not live it we will be similarly cursed.

Matthew 21, 18-22

Thank you for this cross reference. The story is a little different. The withering is immediate rather than noticed on the return trip. And the reference to “… it was not time for figs” was not included as well. What are we to believe? That little point of looking for fruit when a tree is out of season seems to be an important point to Men of Earth such as the Apostles. It would be like " excuse me, but the reason there are no figs is because we need to wait a few more weeks."

Jesus act seems ill tempered and arbitrary indeed. How is this act a sign of judgement that is to come to Israel because of their apparent piety and lack of good deeds? How was this translation revealed to the Apostles ?

Two Apostles reported this event. More? I don’t know. Jesus was hungry and the tree which was out of season had no figs. He was upset. He killed the tree.

Then He tells them to have faith… unwavering faith and they too can kill a tree or move a mountain.

Seems right now like he was a little hasty on his actions but had a good parable to connect for the “amazed” Apostles.

Thank you SonCatcher… that was helpful. VERY!

Wow. St. Josemaria wrote it a lot better than I could have. (start in paragraph 201 for those who want to see it)


It would seem then, that Mark was not aware that the fig tree was truly “in season”? Advertising fruit but bearing none… I love this phrase and understand it readily…

Now I will have to study fig trees.

Fr. Robert Barron’s Lenten commentary on the burning bush and the fig tree. (The part about the parable of the fig tree starts at 9:08)

“We really can run out of time. We can become so resistant to God’s grace that our leaves dry up… Are we like this tree, lifeless?”


Unfortunately for me… the fig tree described in this resource, was not the same tree that is mentioned in Mark and Matthew. The connection and the relevance is there, but the action of Jesus was not there. I am really focusing in on the action of Jesus, how it relates to his hunger, how it relates to the Apostles knowledge of fig trees and Jesus connection between His action, the fig trees condition and the teaching specifically for the Apostles.

“Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak. We are full of words but empty of actions, and therefore are cursed by the Lord, since he himself cursed the fig tree when he found no fruit but only leaves. It is useless for a man to flaunt his knowledge of the law if he undermines it’s teaching by his actions.”
Saint Anthony of Padua

Loved your 1st post in this thread.

Love even more your 2nd post in this thread!!!

God Bless,



With all due respect, your quote does not help me.

“Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak…” I am specifically asking about Jesus actions… AND His words… they don’t match up in my mind for the Apostles in that time. Jesus cursed a TREE! Are we not supposed to “curse” or swear by a single hair on our heads so says Jesus? So… the tree did not provide him the food he needed for his hungry body (and since he was human… he was hungry as WE know physical hunger) then Jesus simply commands the tree to die… because he was hungry… and the tree had nothing to feed him and he had the power to show his power over (everything). Then the Apostles (Peter in Marks account) say to Jesus as they pass the tree a day later… " hey… that is the tree you cursed… it is all withered up… wow… just like you said… it is dead" Then Jesus explanation is about Faith? Deep Faith… unwavering Faith? how is this truly related to that fig tree which had no food for Jesus? How were the words that Jesus spoke relevant to the Apostles at the time?


Are the words spoken by Jesus NOT for the Apostles… but for generations of People that will follow far into the future? Did Jesus actually speak to people THROUGH the Apostles without their understanding… to a future people? This is what I am lead to believe at times when I read the explanations of certain passages. The explanations are so deep and so thinly attached to the actual event that the only explanation for the event of the time is that … the words were not for the Apostles… The Apostles were too dim witted, naive, and ignorant to understand.


Jesus was actually a little too hasty with his action for the tree… simple as that, and the simple takeaway for the Apostles is that Jesus had the power to kill a tree…immediately.

Whoa nelly, first of all it’s not my quote it’s Saint Anthony’s, 2nd I was just trying to help out so I went looking for something that might aid you. 3rd regarding your conclusion,Good luck and God bless.

You are misunderstanding biblical interpretation by saying these things. The Catechism is our primary source for sorting out how to interpret biblical passages:

The four ways of interpreting Scripture: #s 115-119.

The senses of Scripture
115 According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church.
116 The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: "All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal."83
117 The spiritual sense. Thanks to the unity of God’s plan, not only the text of Scripture but also the realities and events about which it speaks can be signs.

  1. The allegorical sense. We can acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ; thus the crossing of the Red Sea is a sign or type of Christ’s victory and also of Christian Baptism.84
  2. The moral sense. The events reported in Scripture ought to lead us to act justly. As St. Paul says, they were written “for our instruction”.85
  3. The anagogical sense (Greek: anagoge, “leading”). We can view realities and events in terms of their eternal significance, leading us toward our true homeland: thus the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem.86
    118 A medieval couplet summarizes the significance of the four senses:
    The Letter speaks of deeds; Allegory to faith;
    The Moral how to act; Anagogy our destiny.87

119 "It is the task of exegetes to work, according to these rules, towards a better understanding and explanation of the meaning of Sacred Scripture in order that their research may help the Church to form a firmer judgment. For, of course, all that has been said about the manner of interpreting Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgment of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God."88
But I would not believe in the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church already moved me.89

As you can see, the literal sense is not the only way Scripture is interpreted. If it were a good deal of the Bible would have no relevance to our lives at all.

The fig tree was often used in literature to represent the study of Scripture or the Authority of the Torah Law. Being “Under the fig tree” meant being under the Law of Moses as laid out in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible.

And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?' And he answered him,Let it alone, sir, this year also, till I dig about it and put on manure. And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” (Luke 13:6-9)

The Law of Moses was not bearing fruit in Israel and Jesus the Master wants to “Cut down the fig tree”, to end the corrupt Levitical priesthood and rule of the Pharisees who enforce the Law of Moses.

Jesus did curse the fig tree, and the authority of the Pharisees and Levitical Priests was taken away, to be replaced by his new, legitimate authority, the Church.


That knowledge gives deeper meaning to John 1:47-48.

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him.”

Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”

Exactly. Nathaniel was “Under the fig tree”, faithful to the Law of Moses, and bore fruit.


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