At a distance, Jesus sees a fig tree with leaves, and being hungry, He approaches it hoping to find some fruit, since a fig tree often produces figs earlier than it produces foliage. Upon reaching the tree, all He finds are leaves; the tree had produced no fruit. Mark, the author of the book, adds the comment that "it was not the season for figs" (Mark 11:13).

The evangelist's statement is somewhat puzzling—until we understand the growth and reproductive cycles of fig trees. Notice the following interesting information about the fig season in Palestine:

It has been asked, 'How could our Lord expect to find ripe figs in the end of March?' Answer, Because figs were ripe in Judea as early as the Passover. Besides, the fig tree puts forth its fruit first, and afterwards its leaves. Indeed, this tree, in the climate which is proper for it, has fruit on it all the year round, as I have often seen. (Adam Clarke's Commentary).

Fruit tree growers know that ordinarily a small amount of fruit ripens prior to the main crop. It is referred to as the first ripe fruit or the firstfruits. When Jesus approached the tree, it was the time of the firstfruits of figs, but it was not yet time for the main harvest. Mark 11:13 must mean that the particular tree on which Christ expected to find figs was barren, because it had no figs on it at all. It did not fulfill its purpose, and as any diligent orchardist would do, Jesus simply eliminated an unproductive tree, not with an ax or a saw, but by faith. Please compare Luke 13:6-9.

Jesus used this incident to teach His disciples—and all Christians today—that the outward appearance does not count with God. Instead, what really counts is whether or not one produces godly fruit in his or her life (John 15:8, 16; Galatians 5:22-23).