A Tree and the Temple

The Gospel of Mark – Part 40

A Tree and The Temple – Mark 11:12-25

Mosaic Rockford – Dave Spooner – June 21st, 2020


  • Jesus and His disciples had moved down from the region of Galilee and entered into the city of Jerusalem. Jesus’ life and ministry were building to a climactic end as the crowds gathered to this majestic city. There was heightened anticipation and anxiety that Jesus was now in Jerusalem.  What was He going to do? How would people respond? What was going to happen? 
  • The first thing that Jesus did when arriving in the city was to enter into it the way the prophets explained the King would come to them: righteous, having salvation, humble and riding on a foal of a donkey. The true King has come to His people, to His city and to His temple.  
  • That evening Jesus took a long look around the temple and assessed it. Then they went out of the city because it was late. The events of the next day were hugely significant as Jesus taught on the purpose of creation, the purpose of the temple and the purpose of prayer. This week in Jerusalem Jesus taught on many other incredibly important subjects that we are going to learn from in following weeks as Jesus establishes a new temple, a new covenant and a new Passover in these last chapters of the Gospel of Mark.    

The purpose of creation

Mark 11:12-14 ESV

On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

  • The purpose of all creation is to serve God. When we fail to fulfill God’s desire and design for us, we are under a curse. And the curse of God is a profoundly serious matter. Everything that is created has a purpose and was formed to serve the creator. Nothing and no one lacks purpose.  This tree and our lives were created to “bear fruit” for God. And God used this fruitless tree to make His point. 
  • Now, from a distance this tree seemed like it was doing what it was created to do. It had grown up alongside the other trees and by all appearances, at least from a distance, it looked good, strong, and healthy. But upon closer examination, even though this tree had a leafy appearance of a heathy tree, it had a damnable problem: it did not have fruit. 
  • This was not the season for figs, however, at this point in the life cycle and development of this tree, there should have been knops. Knops are the early form of a fig, and they are edible. In the fall after the harvest, fig trees produce buds that remain on the tree while the leaves fall off for winter. In the spring these buds turn into knops and then the tree grows leaves again and the figs ripen. A healthy, leafy fig tree in the spring would have these edible knops on them, and because they were green like the leaves, it took a close examination to find them. Jesus went to this tree to find them, and they were not present. Because of this lack of fruit, Jesus pronounced a curse on it.  
  • The purpose of all creation is to serve God. Just like this fruit tree, we were designed to bear fruit in our lives in our service to God. A tree that does not produce fruit is cut down, no matter how alive and “healthy” it looks . . . and thrown into the fire. And a tree that is producing fruit is “pruned” in its development so that it produces even more fruit.  
  • This purpose is true of our lives as individuals and this is also true of the purpose of the temple, the church, the gathering of God’s people and those who are given responsibility to oversee it. Its purpose is to serve God according to its design. And if it is not functioning and not producing according to its design, it will be pruned and remade. This interaction with this fruitless fig tree is intentionally connected with the fruitless temple.   

The purpose of the temple

Mark 11:15-19 ESV

And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. 19 And when evening came they went out of the city.

  • The purpose of the temple was to be a “house of prayer for all the nations.” The temple was to be a place that was a “house” where the family of God could gather with one another and their Father. It was to be a place that we could connect with God through prayer. And this place was not just for the descendants of Jacob (Israel) but a place “all the nations” could gather as the family of God in connection to the Father and in fellowship with each other. This was the design and purpose of the temple, and even though it looked to be “healthy” (there were a lot of “leaves”), upon closer examination it was not producing what it was designed to do in service to God.
  • Both the priests who were to lead and look after the house of God, and the people who were to gather and worship made this sacred place into a “den of robbers.” The headquarters and gathering place for those who robbed. They were robbing God of His glory and robbing people of their goods. This place had been converted for personal profit and perverted from its purpose.  People used it for their own gain and a “short cut” to go where they really wanted to go. It was not producing the fruit it was designed for, and God took this very seriously. It angered Him to the point where He physically drove them out and did not allow them to use the place to personally profit or “pass through” for their own interests.  
  • Those who were to oversee the House of God and those it was entrusted to, the chief priests and the scribes wanted to destroy the very God whom it was designed for. Jesus’ clearing of the temple to return it to its original purpose placed Him over them and over the temple and they were exposed and enraged by this act. 
  • But they feared Him, not because He was God, but because of the people, for they cared more about the judgment and power of the people than they did about the judgment and power of Almighty God. As it was then, so it is today. Churches are not to be a place to make a profit, but a place to prayerfully and prophetically proclaim the word of the Lord and produce fruit in service to the Lord. 

The purpose of a prayer

Mark 11:20-25 ESV

As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” 

  • The purpose or “fruit” of prayer is change in the world that lines up with the purpose of the Creator. Jesus rightly cursed the fig tree because of its unfruitfulness and His words had a profound and powerful effect. The tree was cursed and was “withered away to its roots” – this was not just a plant that was drying out that could come back but was completely dead and would never come back. 
  • And we pray according to the purpose of God because we have faith in Him. What we pray will have an effect – we are not to doubt this but believe that it will be done and come to pass.  

1 John 5:14-15 ESV

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

  • When you pray, make sure you are in right relationship with each other. It is a time to examine yourself and forgive anyone anything that you may have against them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins against Him. The fruit of prayer is change in the world in accord with the will of God and to have our sins and the sins of others forgiven.   


  • Everything and everyone has a purpose, and that purpose is to serve God according to our design. We were created to bear fruit in our relationship to Him. We are not to just have an appearance of a Christian but the substance of a Christian.  
  • The church’s purpose is to be a “house of prayer for all the nations.” In the house of God, we are to function as a family in fellowship with each other and our Father. We are to be connected to Him in prayer and from this connection we will affect the world. We are to both welcome and include all the nations in the house of God. Examine your motives for gathering as a Christian community, and make sure you come to the house of God for the purposes of God.  
  • Our prayers are powerful and effective, they indeed change the world for the purposes of God.  Pray in faith and forgive others their sins against you so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your sins.