“From a distance Jesus saw a fig tree covered with leaves, and he went to see if there were any figs on the tree. But there were not any, because it wasn’t the season for figs.” (Mark 11:13)
Jesus obviously must have known that it wasn’t season for figs. He had after all lived His entire life in this region. Despite this He was looking for fruit on a tree that couldn’t bear figs at this time of the year. Why? The only sensible explanation is that He is trying to make a point. The next verse says:
“So Jesus said to the tree, “Never again will anyone eat fruit from this tree!” The disciples heard him say this.” (v. 14)
And verse 20 says: “As the disciples walked past the fig tree the next morning, they noticed that it was completely dried up, roots and all.”
In this story the tree represents the law and the old covenant. The law is righteous and good. Therefore the fig tree is covered with leaves. However, the law produces fruit upon death. It has never produced any fruit in man which is sweet and good. It wasn’t season for figs because Jesus hadn’t finished His work yet. The Spirit hadn’t come to produce His fruit. The fruit of the Spirit isn’t based on man’s efforts. It is an out flowing of life due to the exchanged life in man when Christ replaces the prince of the power of the air who is at work in those who are disobedient, that is, those who haven’t accepted Jesus. Christ in us produces fruit that lasts.
The withered tree represents the law and the prophets. An old system was to be declared obsolete and a new system/covenant was to be established. Grace would replace law. The old system has withered. It is dead and lifeless, and holds no appeal whatsoever for those who have tasted the new wine.
When Peter the day after saw the withered tree Jesus told his disciples: “Have faith in God!” (11:22) What is impossible for man (become righteous by works) is possible for God (who made man righteous without works). Verse 22 might also be translated as having the same faith as God. God’s faith declares man righteous in Christ Jesus.
Jesus initially examined the tree because He was hungry. He yearned to see God’s magnificent will established among man. He longed for the day when He could gather His beloved ones in the Father’s bosom. He desired to see mankind redeemed and reconciled with God bearing the fruit of the new life.