Fig-Tree with Nothing but Leaves, A By The Rev. Charles Mwiihambi


[A sermon on Holy Week – St. Mark’s Church Msalato Dodma]


Today, according to the Gospel of Mark; is the second day in the Holy Week. Yesterday was a Palm Sunday, when Jesus went to the Temple with a crowd of people praising him like a King. Mark says he looked around the Temple, observing everything, but did not do anything; he went back to Bethany where he had lodged.

Today, is known as the day of cleansing the Temple. Jesus went back to the Temple again and chased away the money changers because they were turning God’s Temple to be like a den of robbers. This would mean that they were not doing justice to their buyers. But they were spoiling the real usage of the place, making noise instead of maintaining a quite and peaceful environment.

However, my focus today is to think together the story of the fig-tree, which Jesus cursed it because it had no fruits: many scholars believe that this was not to be taken literary but, as a metaphor that points to the life situation of the Israelite’s.

Whether this is so or not, still the lesson may be the same. A metaphor normally has two sides: the picture part and the reality part. The picture part is what is generally known of the picture (in this case – the fig-tree). The reality part is what Jesus meant at that particular time and people.

The story tells us that Jesus was hungry, he needed something to eat – and thought the fig-tree could provide something, but when he went, he found nothing but leaves. A fig-tree is a plant that was common in Mediterranean countries with nice fruits good for eating – known as ‘the poor man’s food.’ It was also used as a symbol of peace and prosperity.

What used to be the hope of survival of the common man was now not helpful. Now it has nothing to give the people. It has been useless, not worthy to be there (for that time). Jesus is behaving like a natural man, panting for food and there is no food. Today, when we look at our shambas (fields) it is like Jesus and the fig-tree. Our shambas are dry, they can’t give us anything to eat, and we are desperate.

The reality part of the story wants us to look beyond the shortage of food to the spiritual but real side of life. In the metaphor Israel was the fig-tree, God as well as Jesus expected to see fruits, and in this case no time limit, but they were supposed to live as witness and bearer of God’s love, justice, peace, and many others. Instead, they produced nothing of the kind, but greed of money – getting richer and richer in expense of the hungry majority.

Christians represent the New Israel – their lives must bear fruits all the time: that are to feed the community. A happy family, living in peace with one another, kind, ready to help where there is need, is what Jesus expect from us. Now if our Christianity is nothing but leaves, what is the use? Why should we ask God to keep us living? Paul in Galatians 6:22f, says, ‘the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’ These nine fruits are supposed to be available in all-weather. Our shambas are dry, they cannot give us food, but if we have the fruits of the Holy Spirit as enumerated above, we can help each other, we can feed each other, but if our souls are dry like our shambas, we are doomed.

This passage is both a warning and encouragement. Jesus has many ways to help us out of our hungry state. He can dry our shambas but can also provide another way. We don’t need to be desperate because of the situation of food, God will provide. If he has power to curse the land, he is also capable of blessing the land in many different ways. But, we need to ask ourselves if we are useful or we live for nothing. Let us be a joy to our families, neighbors, at the working place, and to the world at large.

Christian life is sweet and delicious – ‘the poor man’s food,’ that brings peace and prosperity’ it makes the world a better place to live. Let this holy week change you and make you a better person. Easter brings transformation – from hate to love, from self-looking to servant-hood, and from sinful life to paradise. Let us bring paradise here on earth by preaching and exercising love. Ask yourself, what fruits do you have? Or are you dry?



Lord Jesus, when you turned upside down the tables of our greedy hearts, give us power to love and show kindness, and to maintain justice in this unjust and dry world – in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit: AMEN.

[The Rev. Charles Mwiihambi; Academic Dean, Msalato Theological College, Dodoma, Tanzania, Mark 11:12-25]