that had no fruit, while on his way from Bethany to Jerusalem.
In the morning, as He was returning to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a
fig tree by the wayside He went to it, and found nothing on it but leaves
only. And He said to it, "May no fruit every come from you again!" And the
fig tree withered at once. When the disciples saw it they marveled, saying,
"How did the fig tree wither at once?" And Jesus answered them, "Truly, I
say to you, if you have faith and never doubt, you will not only do what has
been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken
up and cast into the sea,‚ it will be done. And whatever you ask in prayer,
you will receive, if you have faith" (Matthew 21:18-22).
The first act after the fall was that of Adam and Eve clothing themselves
with fig leaves. So now Jesus is making the same figure of the fig tree the
very last of His wondrous signs. Just as He was headed towards the Cross, He
cursed the fig tree˜not every fig tree, but that one alone for its symbolic
significance˜saying, „May no one any more eat fruit of thee forever.‰ In
this way the curse laid upon Adam and Eve was being reversed.
ˆ Saint Cyril of Jerusalem
That you might learn that it was for the disciples' sakes that this was
done, that He might train them in confidence, listen to what He said
afterward: "You also shall do greater things, if you are willing to believe
and to be confident in prayer." All this was done for their sakes that they
might not be afraid and tremble at plots against them. He repeated this to
enable them to cleave to prayer and faith. For you shall not only do this,
but you shall also remove mountains; and many more things you shall do,
being confident in faith and prayer.
ˆ Saint John Chrysostom, Homily on the Gospel of Matthew
The fig tree is a symbol of the Jewish nation, which had the outward
appearance of fruits, because they had followed the letter of the law. But
they lacked fruit in that they did not abide by the Spirit of the law and
„neglected the weightier things of the law.‰ They continued to question His
authority even to the last moment (9th hour gospel). Christ had rejected the
Jews, as they were plotting to slaughter Him.
Truly, when He came and found no fruit in [the Jews], He cursed them through
the fig-tree, saying, ŒLet there be henceforth no fruit from you;‚ and the
fig-tree was dead and fruitless so that even the disciples wondered when it
withered away∑The Lord cursed them under the figure of the fig-tree. And
yet, He still spared them in His loving-kindness, and did not destroy the
root and the entire tree. For He did not curse the root, but [said] that no
man will eat fruit of it thenceforth. When He did this, He abolished the
shadow, causing it to wither; but preserved the root, so that we might [not]
be grafted upon it; Œthey too, if they abide not in unbelief, may attain to
be grafted into their own olive tree.‚ Now when the Lord had cursed them
because of their negligence, He removed from them the new moons, the true
lamb, and that which is truly the Passover.
ˆ Saint Athanasius, Letter 6