This is a story where it is a little hard to understand the actions of Jesus. Why would he curse a tree that wasn’t bearing fruit though it was not even the season for it?
There does tend to be disagreement on the answer. One idea is that that during the time of the Passover, fig trees in Palestine usually produced crops of small edible buds. These buds were often eaten by local peasants, and it was perhaps this that Jesus was looking for. But if there were no buds growing at that time, it was a sign that there would be no fruit at all from the tree.
I don’t know if this is the answer, but it seems as reasonable as any other explanation I’ve heard.
At any rate, sandwiched around the cleansing of the temple as it is in Mark, it seems Jesus was making a point. That just as judgment came upon that fig tree for not bearing fruit, so judgment was coming upon Israel for not bearing spiritual fruit. This was clearly seen in the temple and the people running it.
Early in his ministry, Jesus had cleansed the temple, casting out the merchants and money changers from the court of the Gentiles. As I mentioned before, this was the only area where the foreigners could come and worship God within the temple courts. But the priests had turned it into a market, and not only that, a “den of thieves” where people who came there were cheated of their money. And this was the temple. The very center of Israelite worship.
All of their religious acts, all of their zeal, was proven to be corrupt by what was happening in their temple. Particularly in the fact that they not only rejected Jesus as Messiah, but plotted to kill him. And because of that, judgment came when Titus tore down the temple for the final time. To this day, it has not been rebuilt. Why? Because for all the time and love God poured into Israel, ultimately, they proved to be fruitless.
But none of God’s actions are fruitless. Through the Jews’ rejection of Christ, the gospel spread to the world. And in time, the Jews too will come to Christ. (Romans 11)
The question we need to ask ourselves, however, is what fruit is coming out of our lives? The Bible calls our lives the temple of God. As his temples, are we bearing fruit? Are we making a difference in the lives around us? Or have we let ourselves become corrupted by the world? By a love of money as the priests had, or by other things? If so, then we will stop bearing fruit and all that we “accomplish” or “achieve” will eventually be burned.
Let us not be fruitless, but fruitful. Filled with God’s Spirit, and touching the lives of all he puts in our path.