Why Did Jesus Curse a Fig Tree?

From Gideon – part of our TWR360 audience:

My question is, “What is the biblical interpretation of Mark 11:12-14? Wait to hear from you soon.”

1. (12-14) Jesus curses a fig tree.

Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” And His disciples heard it.

a. Seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it: Essentially, the tree was a picture of false advertising, having leaves but no figs. Ordinarily this is not the case with these fig trees, which normally do not have leaves without also having figs.

  1. For it was not the season for figs: It wasn’t that the fig tree didn’t have figs because it wasn’t supposed to. The problem is that it had leaves but didn’t have figs. The leaves said, “There are figs here,” but the figs weren’t there.
  2. There were many trees with only leaves, and these were not cursed. There were many trees with neither leaves nor fruit, and these were not cursed. This tree was cursed because it professed to have fruit, but did not.

b. In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again”: The tree was cursed for its pretense of leaves, not for its lack of fruit. Like Israel in the days of Jesus, it had the outward form but no fruit. In this picture, Jesus warned Israel – and us – of God’s displeasure when we have the appearance of fruit but not the fruit itself. God isn’t pleased when His people are all leaves and no fruit.

  1. In all works in the ministry of Jesus, this is the only destructive miracle. The Old Testament is filled with miracles of destruction and judgment, but Jesus most perfectly showed us the nature of God. If this was the only miracle of its kind, we must see there was a great and important lesson in it. God doesn’t approve when there is profession without reality, talk without walk.
  2. “There is no more warrant for criticizing our Lord for destroying a tree for the purpose of teaching, than there is for objecting to a Christmas tree for our children, or the plucking of petals from a flower in a lesson on botany.” (Morgan)

Will you explain fasting, in the context of Mark 9:29?

Mark 9:29- So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”

This is a very interesting comment from Jesus, to give the idea that fasting is a resource of spiritual power, along the same lines as prayer. We all understand that prayer gives to us some sort of resource of spiritual power. Fasting also does that. There is great value in putting away other interests, other distractions, and anything which might take up our energy or interest, other than seeking the Lord and pleading for things that are in great need. Those things have a great spiritual power to them. That’s why Jesus said that this particular kind of demon being dealt with comes out by nothing but prayer and fasting. Now, I do want to acknowledge that, at least in the Mark text, some manuscripts do not include the phrase, “and fasting.” But we have other Gospels that kind of give the same idea, even if you want to dispute whether or not it’s within this particular verse.

There is true spiritual power in fasting. Don’t get it wrong: the power that comes to us spiritually from fasting does not come because we earn something, because of our sacrifice. There have been some very strange Christian groups over the centuries who have believed that the more we afflict ourselves, the more pleasing we can be to God, and we can earn favor before Him. So, in past generations, Christians have worn very rough, uncomfortable clothing, such as what’s called a hair-shirt. Christians have slept on deliberately rough, uncomfortable, maybe even painful beds to afflict themselves. They’ve slept on hard, cold floors. They’ve done all kinds of things to afflict themselves. Oftentimes they’ve done it with a mentality that says, “My pain will earn an answer before God.”

Let me say, that’s a dangerous way to think. We don’t fast or practice self-denial with the sense that we will twist God’s arm and get what we want. We do it because we want to share God’s heart for something, and even afflict ourselves with something that we believe afflicts God in some light. I’m not trying to imply that human beings can afflict themselves in the same way that God is concerned or shows His care for something. But in fasting we’re trying to align our heart and actions for God.

Now, there is great value in fasting beyond that, but there is value in fasting specifically along those lines. It is a demonstration of and an access to what we would call true spiritual power. It is often neglected in the church today. I think it’s indisputable that Christians should be fasting more. This is something that we as believers should and can be doing more and more.

What does Hebrews 13:20 mean when it says Jesus is brought from the dead “again”?

Hebrews 13:20– Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant.

Jesus died once for us, not twice. So why does it say, “again”? That’s a good question. I think the misunderstanding simply has to do with the English phrasing of that particular question. We can read into it that Jesus was resurrected again, but really the sense is, “He was brought to life again.” It does not mean that He was resurrected again, but brought to life again, in the original text of the Greek New Testament.

I say this not because I myself am a Greek expert. However, based on the commentaries I’ve read, they’ve raised no concern over this. It’s just a simple way of speech, with a more awkward phrasing once it gets translated into English. It means that Jesus came again to life, not that Jesus died twice and had to be resurrected twice.

Translation from one language to another is always imperfect. If you’re going to translate any amount of text, there are going to be things in the vocabulary and the grammar which aren’t exactly expressed from one language to the other. I think this is one of those cases. Here the thought in mind is not of Jesus being resurrected again, as if He died twice and had to be resurrected twice, but it’s Jesus coming to life again through the resurrection. Any awkwardness in the phrasing comes from the limitations of translation from one language to another.

What does “mortal sin” mean?

This idea of separating sins between mortal sins and what theological circles call venial sins, or lesser sins, or of dividing sins into worse sins and not-as-bad sins, is not a distinction that I believe the Bible makes. It’s a distinction made in theology that is not made in the Scriptures.

Biblically speaking, you could look at this from many different angles. Let me just give you one angle from which to look at this. From one aspect of the sin situation, you could biblically say that all sin is mortal sin. The word “mortal” simply means “deadly”. A sin that brings death is unrepented sin; such sin has not been dealt with by Jesus at the cross. All sin can bring us eternal death. There’s a sense in which all sin is deadly.

Theologians will also make the distinction that all sins aren’t equal in their severity. That’s true. All sin does not have the same consequence. The sin of saying an unkind word is not as serious in its consequence as the sin of stabbing somebody with a knife. Sins have different consequences, so they can be viewed as worse or better in that light.

But the real theology of the mortal sin goes something like this: once a person is baptized, if they commit a mortal sin, then they are going to Hell or are in great danger of Hell. If you were to go to your death with an unconfessed mortal sin, you’d go to Hell. Again, I don’t see that distinction made in the Bible. But it’s a distinction that’s made by theologians.

Where are people finding this distinction? They’re getting it from theological systems, not necessarily from the Bible. I think we need to be careful with any theological system. I am much more focused upon my Bible. I’m not trying to put down systems of theology. I just think that they have definite limitations, about which we should be very aware and cautious.

Yes, Jesus is able to forgive all sin. It’s not as if there’s a category of sins that’s too difficult for Jesus to forgive. He is rich in His love and forgiveness.

What are some of David Guzik’s hobbies?

I have a few hobbies. My wife and I, one hobby we really enjoy is going to the beach and looking for treasure on the beach. My wife, Inga-Lill, is quite a treasure hunter. I suppose I’ve caught some of that bug from her. We mostly look for sea-glass. But we’ll also look for anything else that catches our eye, that’s something of a treasure. That’s a great thing we really enjoy doing. I like going out and doing things and doing things around the house with my wife. I also enjoy working on old cars. I’ve got a couple older cars that I’m working on. I enjoy that a great deal. It’s really a fun thing to do. There are also some sports that I like to do, and athletic types of things.

Was Jesus only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel?

I’m not aware of any particular verse where Jesus says that He was sent to preach to the Gentiles. Later on in the book of Acts, Jesus gave a very specific command to His disciples to make disciples. That meant preaching the gospel, training people in the tradition of faith, and leading people in obedience to God. They were called to make disciples all over the earth, to every tribe, language and nation. Jesus gave that specific call to His disciples. But I’m not aware of any place where Jesus specifically said of His own work that He was sent to preach to the Gentiles as well.

As Jesus told the Syro-Phoenician woman, He focused His ministry on the lost sheep of Israel. He did do ministry outside of that, and beyond that, on rare occasions. For example, there was a centurion whose faith Jesus commended, as another notable example with the Syro-Phoenician woman. But overall, the work of Jesus was to the house of Israel, who we would call the lost sheep of Israel. Jesus wanted to do that along the pattern which Paul later expressed: that the gospel was to come to the Jew first, then to the Gentile.

Now, from the very beginning, God had a great interest in reaching both Jew and Gentile. But in His plan, He ordained that the gospel go first to the Jew, and then to the Gentile. I think that’s a very, very important aspect to take from that.

Is deception or lying ever Biblically acceptable?

This is a difficult ethical question. I think we could say that, according to Biblical ethics, there are times when there are two options in front of us, and either one of them is sinful but lying would be the less sinful of the two. I know there’s something that makes us makes me very uncomfortable in saying those words. We hear those words, and we think we might be at risk of giving people an excuse for lying.

Now, people are just going to lie. Let’s be honest: people do lie, and excuse it all the time under that premise that they had to lie, because of some reason or another. It is true that this is an excuse often taken in a way that’s not valid. The taking of that excuse is a sin on top of their sin of lying.

But I do think there are ethical situations in which a lie would be the less sinful option that you mentioned here, such as in warfare or self-defense. Say, for example, if somebody were to be hiding persecuted people, and the police or the authorities came in and demanded to know where they were, lying might be the preferable option compared to telling the truth. These issues are complicated and making these statements is difficult, because some people are just going to use it as an excuse or justification of their own lying. And that’s true, people will, but it’s on them.

God knows when we use a lame excuse or justification of our sin. You might fool people. You might deceive them or put them in a situation where they know what you’re doing is wrong, but they feel like they can’t say anything against it. That may very well happen, but you cannot fool God. God sees and God knows.

Does Job 4:18 suggest that angels sin?

Job 4:18– If He puts no trust in His servants, If He charges His angels with error.

First of all, we would say that the statement in Job 4:18 does not demand the idea that God find sin or error in the angels, simply because it’s phrased using “if”. The sense here is hypothetical. Someone could say it suggests the idea that angels might sin. Well, fair enough. But it does not categorically say that the possibility of angels sinning is a fact. The verse just simply does not demand the idea that angels sin.

Secondly, we do have an indication about this in the Scriptures. Now, I need to be a little bit careful here, because the evidence is not as clear Scripturally as we might wish. In other words, there’s just not enough Biblical data to say some of the things I’m saying with absolute certainty. But here it is:

It seems as if what we call today “demonic spirits” were at one time angelic spirits. We could say that they are still, in their nature, angels, but they are angelic spirits who sinned, who fell. If that’s the case, then angels were at one time capable of sin. If that’s true, and I think most people believe it is true, then here we see the idea that angels were at one time capable of sin, but later lost that capability to sin. The same will be true of human beings. We believe that when a person goes to heaven, they will no longer be capable of sin. Our time of sin, our time of choosing, is right now. It won’t be in the world beyond.

The same was probably true of angelic beings. At one time, angelic beings no doubt had a time for choosing, but that time of choosing has now ended for them. So, Job could be raising a purely hypothetical question there, and that’s possible. Job could also be speaking about a past time when angels could sin, but that ability is no longer left up to them. I suppose it’s also possible that angels could sin, and we’re just told nothing of it.

Can people be or become under a curse today?

The way in which most people speak about curses is totally superstitious and has no biblical basis whatsoever. However, God does speak of cursing some people. So, I believe that there are people who are, in a sense, under a curse from God, because they are not repentant. They have not asked God for forgiveness of their particular sins.

There’s that aspect to it, which I think is very interesting, that it is possible for God to curse people. Of course, the greatest example of this is found in the Old Testament, in the book of Leviticus and in the book of Deuteronomy, part of the Mosaic Law given to Israel. As part of that Law, God gave them the dynamic of blessing and cursing, where He promised to bless an obedient Israel, and He promised to curse a disobedient Israel, in regard to the law of Moses.

Now, the New Covenant doesn’t work this way, but the Old Covenant did.

There is that aspect of a curse that comes from God, and there is power in the demonic realm. You could say that a demon-possessed person is cursed by Satan. We don’t know the extent of it, or how it all works, if someone were to subject someone else to a curse. But we do know that there is real power in the demonic realm.

The important thing to realize is that any power in the demonic realm is nowhere equal to the power of Jesus. We say to everybody who might be possessed by a demon, or harassed or hassled in any way, that there is power in Jesus Christ, to overcome every demonic power. And we find rest in that; we rejoice in that. That is a great source of peace.

Christians do not need to be fearful of curses. To have this great fear of curses, is really a lack of confidence in Jesus and His protective power. If someone is troubled that maybe they have been cursed, or would be cursed, take it to Jesus. Find refuge in His truth, in His power, in His grace, and you’ll find that you don’t need to be upset or worried about the power of those curses at all.

Again, I think it is possible for a person to be cursed, but there is no need for any Christian to live in fear of curses, and certainly not curses from God. For the believer, any potential curse was poured out upon the Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus was cursed on the cross so that believers would not be cursed. I don’t for a moment pretend to be an expert about these things at all, but from the limited things that I do know, from the Bible and from my own experiences, we can say without reservation that there is far, far greater power in Jesus Christ than whatever power there may be in the demonic realm regarding curses. No Christian needs to live in fear of curses.

Can God allow anything sinful in His presence?

God doesn’t dwell around sin; He is ultimately pure. Why did He allow Satan to come into His presence according to the book of Job, even though Satan is full of sin?

The idea is something like this: God is so holy and so pure that He cannot allow anything sinful in His presence. Therefore, it’s very important to realize that this is why people who are sinful can’t go to heaven; they’ll never come into the presence of God. This question is based on something of a misunderstanding. God can be in the presence of sin. Let me give you the greatest example of this.

Jesus Christ is fully God. The Bible says repeatedly that Jesus Christ is God. Jesus Christ, being God, was around sinful people every moment of the day, except when He was all by Himself. Anytime Jesus was around anybody, He was around a sinful person. So, the idea that God cannot allow sin in His presence is really something that is much more often said by preachers than it is indicated to us by the Word of God itself.

I think it’s important that we always take a step back and ask ourselves, “What is Biblical? I may well have said that in my preaching at some time; the preachers who say that mean well. What they’re trying to get at is the idea that God truly is holy, and that we need to be made right before Him. But nowhere do we have this picture of God that the holiness and spotless sinless character of God means that he can have nothing sinful in His presence. We just don’t have that indicated for us Biblically.

How was David a man after God’s own heart, even after he sinned?

I think you’re talking about 2 Samuel 22, and that great psalm of David, where he praised God. He says things like this: “I was also blameless before Him; as for His statutes, I did not depart from them.” There are two ideas at play here. There are some people who believe that this was a song that David actually composed earlier in his reign. If you notice the very beginning to this, it’s also repeated in Psalm 18. It says, “Then David spoke to Lord the words of this song on the day when the Lord had delivered him from all of his enemies and from the hand of Saul.” (2 Samuel 22:1) There are people who believe that this psalm comes from a happier time in David’s life, and it’s just inserted here towards the end of the book of 2 Samuel for the sake of chronology. That may very well be; this may be simply a psalm that comes from earlier in David’s life. It’s a possibility.

However, let’s just remember that David was a man after God’s own heart, even after his sin. Now, that’s not because he sinned. There are people who fall from grace, and they fall away from the Lord. There are other people who fall into the grace of God: they sin, they confess, they repent. The end effect is that it draws them closer to the Lord than ever. Now, please understand, we are never recommending that someone use grievous sin in their life as a way to draw closer to the Lord. That would be twisting what the Bible says.

Nevertheless, we can say that this principle has been true: those who have recognized that they’ve been forgiven much, do in fact love much, and they truly love the Lord. This is what we see at work here in this particular passage. First of all, David didn’t lose his status because he truly was a man who repented and was restored before God. It’s not that he didn’t pay a price for his sin; he certainly paid a price. But there was a beautiful restoration. Secondly, it’s possible or maybe even likely that David wrote this song from before that time, and not after his grievous sin.

Which Bible translations outside of the New King James does David recommend?

I believe that we live in a wonderful time when there are several good Bible translations out there. I’m going to recommend to you the New King James Version; that’s my go-to Bible translation. My entire Bible Commentary work has been based on the New King James Version. I am just very pleased just to keep that. To me, there are several good Bible translations out there, but the New King James version is the one that I prefer. The ESV is obviously a good translation. The New American Standard Bible is another great translation. If somebody is looking for a Bible that’s worded more simply, whether it’s a person at a lower reading level, or someone who just appreciates a simpler stating of things, I think the New Living Translation is a good Bible translation; and it’s a translation, not a paraphrase.

An answer to those commenting in a hostile manner:

Today we have received many comments from people who seem a little bit hostile or antagonistic. Maybe they come from the Hebrew Israelite tradition. People like that are very often active on such videos as ours. Let me say something to you.

First of all, we love you in the name of Jesus. We think that you’re misguided. We think that there is no reason to believe that modern races identify with ancient Israelites other than Jewish people of this day. We just really think that you are misguided and need to turn from your misguided ways. It’s really strange and a little bit sad to us that you’d come on our channel to disrupt things.

Jesus Christ is a great Savior. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. Jesus Christ is the Savior of every tribe, tongue, and nation. There’s no reason for anybody to look to any savior other than Jesus Christ. People need to talk less about Edomites, and Esau, and this modern racial identification of the ancient Jews and so on. They need to talk a lot less about that, and they need to talk about Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world.

Jesus Christ is also the judge of all the world. When you reject Jesus, and when you deny the fact that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, you are sealing your own condemnation. It’s sad. Don’t ever forget the sinless man, Jesus Christ, who laid down his life on the cross to bring salvation, and who has been given that wonderful and exalted title, Savior of the world. That is to whom the salvation of Jesus is extended: the world. If you reject that Jesus, there is no salvation in any other place or any other person; you are sealing your own fate.

I regard it as a bit of a badge of honor to be harassed in the smallest of ways from the comments. I’m not trying to over dramatize this. It’s a nuisance, really. But I count it as a badge of honor to have this nuisance from those who are opponents from Jesus Christ. You need to repent of those sins. You need to turn your attention and your focus to Jesus Christ, who is the Savior of the world. There is salvation found in none other.

What is the creature mentioned in Lamentations 4:3?

In Lamentations 4:3, the KJV says “sea monsters,” whereas the NKJV and NASB say “jackals”. Why the difference?

Lamentations 4:3 (NKJV)– Even the jackals present their breasts to nurse their young; but the daughter of my people is cruel, like ostriches in the wilderness.

I don’t know, offhand. Obviously, there are some Hebrew words referring to animals or referring to trees where their meaning is disputed. We don’t have to be troubled by this. It’s obviously referring to some kind of mammal. Whether that’s a sea mammal, or whether it’s a land animal, such as a jackal.

These are just things that have to do with translation. I would have to get into my own resources and study materials to give you a more coherent answer for that. I recall some place in the Old Testament, where some translations think it’s a jackal and other translations thinks it’s an owl or something like that. There are some places where it’s just a little bit difficult to take an ancient Hebrew word, and to know exactly the animal that’s being spoken of. We try to do the best we can through context, but we’re not always able to do that.

Who should not take communion?

I want to know who should not take communion. At times our pastor tells us God wants us all to take it; then at other times, he says that some should not be doing it. I am so very confused.

I feel a bit awkward contradicting what your pastor says. My goal here is not to undermine your confidence in your pastor. It’s not to say your pastor is wrong. Maybe if your pastor and I were sitting together he could explain exactly what he meant to me. I don’t know. I always feel uncomfortable when somebody asked me about something that their pastor said, because I really want to respect a pastor’s authority, even recognizing that pastors can be wrong about things.

You want to know if a person should not take communion if there’s sin in their life. Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 11 about the danger of taking communion unworthily. But it’s very interesting if you look at the context of what Paul says there in 1 Corinthians 11. Please read it. You can go to my commentary on it. You can do your own research, but we’re talking about 1 Corinthians 11, and taking communion, the Lord’s Supper, in an unworthy way.

What Paul is speaking about there, in context, is taking communion in an unworthy manner. In other words, they took communion in a church setting where they were being very rude and inconsiderate of one another, and really offending one another at the very communion service. In the early church, communion was often held as part of what we in the United States would call a potluck supper, where people bring food, and everybody shares the food they have. That was not the exclusive way, but it was a common way in which communion was received in the early church. It was known as a love feast, or an agape feast.

Well, Paul says that there was very selfish conduct going on at those potluck suppers. In some cases, somebody was taking huge portions of the best food for themselves, and other people went hungry; it even speaks of there being drunkenness at some of these Corinthian agape feasts or potluck meals. Paul says that when you take communion in the context of that kind of selfishness and sin against one another in the presence of others, you are receiving communion in unworthy manner – so don’t do it!

I don’t think Paul was saying here that if you’re a sinner, you shouldn’t take communion.

Let’s remember what communion signifies. It signifies the broken body and the poured-out blood of Jesus, which was given for sinners. If you are cherishing known sin in your heart, if you’re not bringing it to the cross and under the blood of Jesus, then you might want to let those communion elements pass you by. But it’s not because you’ve sinned so grievously that you can’t be forgiven. No, that’s not it at all.

The issue is that you have sinned, and you refuse to bring that sin under the blood of Jesus Christ. There is a sense in which that communion supper is open and available to everyone who will receive it in a way that honors God. So that’s really what I would say to you. I think it’s something that God wants us to receive deeply in our own heart. Receiving communion in an unworthy manner is something we should never do. It’s a grievous sin to receive communion while cherishing unrepentant sin. That’s not good either. No matter what the sin, if you’ll bring it under the atoning work of Jesus Christ and His poured-out life and blood, and receive communion in that manner, that’s a glorious thing.

What are some resources on the time period between 400BC and Christ’s birth?

I’ll recommend three books to you. The first one is by Norman Geisler and William Nix, and it’s called “A General Introduction to the Bible.” That’ll give you information on that period between the Old and New Testaments.

There are two other resources that I really appreciate. They’re both by F.F. Bruce, who is a great Bible commentator, and also a really outstanding historian. F.F. Bruce wrote two books: one on Old Testament history called “Israel and the Nations,” and another one on New Testament history, which is called “New Testament History.” Those two books by F. F. Bruce are excellent books on New Testament history. The one book will cover Old Testament, so it’s just before the inter-Testament period, and the other will cover the time immediately following that period.