I was recently asked a question about Jesus cursing a fig tree as found in Matthew 21:18-22 and Mark 11:12-14, 20-25. Perhaps this had to do with the fact that the tree had leaves and appeared as if it would have fruit, but did not. On one level, this could be a charge against the powerful people that were about to orchestrate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. These people professed religion, but were going to kill Jesus. This would be an obvious assessment of the text at hand. But what about a more personal interpretation of the text?
Are we sometimes like the fig tree? Do we profess to believe in Jesus, but act in such a way that would cause Jesus pain? Do we actually produce fruits? Analyzing the text this way is difficult for me, because as I do so, I see where I fall short, where I am hypocritical in my attempt to follow the Savior. Perhaps this is necessary so that I can change.
Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert Millet had this to say about this story in the text:
All present knew that fig trees bring forth their fruit before their leaves. All were equally aware that it would be some weeks before fig trees normally gave fruit. Yet the profusion of leaves on this tree constituted an announcement that it was laden with fruit. Christ was thus attracted to it. The symbol was perfect-a tree professing fruits and having none standing in the very shadows of the temple where a corrupt priesthood professed righteousness and devotion to Israel’s God as they plotted the death of his Son. How better could Christ have typified the rustling leaves of religious pretense that took refuge within the temple walls? And does not such hypocrisy, be it individual or national, merit the disdain and curse of that very authority it mocks?
“The stage was set, the lesson was most timely, and in the false pretense of the fig tree was to be found perfect typecasting. The moment now belonged to the Master Teacher, who used it to dramatize his power over nature and evidence once again his claim to Messiahship, while making the fig tree a prophetic type of what befalls those who profess his authority and fail to bring forth good fruits. Of such he has said that he will curse them ‘with the heaviest of all cursings.’ (D&C 41:1.)” (Joseph F. McConkie, Studies in Scripture, Vol. 5: The Gospels, ed. by Kent P. Jackson and Robert L. Millet, 376.)