Mark 11:20 – Jesus Curses a Fig Tree

By Wayne Jackson

There is a passage in Mark’s account of the life of Christ that puzzles many people. It reads as follows:

“And as they [Jesus and His disciples] passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance said unto him [Christ], ‘Rabbi, behold, the fig tree which you cursed is withered away’” (Mark 11:20-21).

Did Christ, in a burst of temper, actually curse, i.e., use profanity, a fig tree? That simply cannot be the case since the New Testament repeatedly affirms the absolute perfection of the Savior (cf. Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22). Some enemies of the Bible, though, have charged the Son of God with intemperance in this matter. But what are the facts of the case?

First of all, “curse,” as that term is used in the Scriptures, does not carry the same meaning as the modern English word connotes. In ancient times, to “curse” a person or object was equivalent to pronouncing doom or destruction upon that person or thing. Under the law of Moses, one sentenced to death for a capital crime was said to be “accursed of God” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). The writer of Hebrews speaks of land that brings forth nothing but thorns and thistles as being worthy of a “curse,” i.e., whose “end is to be burned” (Hebrews 6:8).

Second, a careful consideration of the entire context involving this incident negates that baseless and blasphemous charge against the Savior. Underline the word “cursed” in Mark 11:21, and in your margin write: See verse 14.

Now look at that verse and read the precise language of the curse: “No man eat fruit from you henceforth for ever.” Christ simply doomed the fig tree to perpetual fruitlessness, i.e., death. Why did our Lord do that? Because the fig tree was a symbol of the fruitless Jewish nation, and this was a visual aid lesson which prophesied the coming fate of national Israel. Jesus was not implicated in any wrongful activity.

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.