Mark 11:12-25 – The Sign of the Fig Tree and Business in the Temple Courtyard


Mark 11:12-25


Through the cursing of a fig tree and his disruption of daily business, Jesus predicts the coming destruction of the Temple.


Just as with the healing of the women with the hemorrhage and the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:21-43 Two Nested Miracles), Mark employs a frame narrative to highlight the significance of Jesus’s actions in the Temple courtyard. The cursing of the fig tree and its result help the reader to interpret Jesus’ disruption of daily business in the Temple. Just as Jesus expected to find fruit on the fig tree, he expected to find a house of prayer on his visit to the Temple. Just as he curses the fig tree to never bear fruit again, he quotes Jeremiah 7:11 to condemn the Temple as a den of robbers. Peter notices that Jesus’ words to the fig tree have power; they cause the tree to wither. In the same way, the early followers of Jesus would have remembered his condemnation of the Temple when it was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70.

It is hard to overstate how absurd Jesus’ action would have seemed to his contemporaries. The business that he condemns–changing money and selling doves–was part of the normal work of a Temple in the ancient world and was actually offered as a service to pilgrims. The presence of buyers and sellers in the Temple allowed people to carry money on their pilgrimages instead of an animal to sacrifice. It also allowed urban people who had no access to animals to purchase sacrifices for festivals. However, in keeping his relationship to the Sabbath and to dietary restrictions, Jesus calls for religion based on prayer and faith in God.