12 The next morning, when they departed Bethany and were traveling back to the city, Jesus was hungry. 13 Off in the distance, He saw a fig tree fully leafed out, so He headed toward it to see if it might have any ripe fruit. But when He reached it, He found only leaves because the fig season had not yet come.
14 As the disciples listened, Jesus pronounced a curse on the tree.
Jesus: No one will ever eat fruit from your branches again.
This is the only time recorded in the Gospels when Jesus uses His supernatural power to destroy. The tree is “fully leafed out”—a stage that usually comes after figs are ripe and not before. Because the tree looks as though it ought to have fruit but doesn’t, it is a perfect illustration of people who believe they have the good fruit of righteousness even though their actions are void of true compassion and love, as empty and useless as leaves. And so Jesus curses the fig tree, not out of anger with the tree itself, but as a warning to hypocrites who think their appearance is more important than the fruit of their actions.
15 They continued into Jerusalem and made their way up to the temple.
Upon reaching the temple that morning, Jesus dealt with those who were selling and buying animals for sacrifices and drove them out of the area. He turned over the tables of those who exchanged money for the temple pilgrims and the seats of those selling birds, 16 and He physically prevented anyone from carrying anything through the temple.
Jesus(to those who were listening):17 Didn’t the prophets write, “My house will be called a house of prayer, for all the people”[a]? But you have made it into a “haven for thieves.”[b]
At the temple, Jesus responds in shock to the scene before Him. He acts decisively and with great emotion against those who have turned God’s house into a place where pilgrims are exploited. He has a message and, like the prophets of old, this message is better seen than heard. Because the temple leadership has allowed profiteers and merchants to set up shop in the court of the Gentiles, they are making ridiculous profits. For the people who come long distances to worship, it is a normal practice to have merchants selling animals for the pilgrims to sacrifice. What is not normal and what is immoral is where and how they transact business. Jesus takes issue with robbers profiteering in His Father’s house.
18 The chief priests and the scribes heard these words and knew Jesus was referring to them, so they plotted His destruction. They had grown afraid of Him because His teachings struck the crowds into astonishment.
19 When evening came, [Jesus and His followers][c] left the city again. 20 The next morning on the way back to Jerusalem, they passed a tree that had withered down to its very roots.
Peter(remembering):21 That’s the fig tree, Teacher, the one You cursed just yesterday morning. It’s withered away to nothing!
Jesus:22 Trust in God. 23 If you do, honestly, you can say to this mountain, “Mountain, uproot yourself and throw yourself into the sea.” If you don’t doubt, but trust that what you say will take place, then it will happen. 24 So listen to what I’m saying: Whatever you pray for or ask from God, believe that you’ll receive it and you will. 25 When you pray, if you remember anyone who has wronged you, forgive him so that God above can also forgive you. [26 If you don’t forgive others, don’t expect God’s forgiveness.][d]
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