Form without Substance
Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. 13 And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again” . . . 20 Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. 21 And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.” 22 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. 23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Mark 11:12-14, 20-23 NKJV
Like the barren fig tree, some people make a show of things that they really don’t have. They will flaunt expensive jewelry, cars, and clothing and may not have a place to lay their heads, or a “pot to pee in or a window to throw it out of.” Some pretend to have certain callings from God or spiritual gifts; but they have neither. They have form but no substance—“clouds and wind without rain” (Prov. 25:14).
The barren fig tree was adorned with leaves. It promised fruit and then deceived those who came to it for fruit. But why did Jesus curse the fig tree? The barren tree represented a form of wickedness (Prov. 3:33), and it was counter to God’s design and purpose that fig trees provide fruitful food (Gen. 1:28, 29). Jesus was bodily hungry. The tree showed a promise of fruit but had none (John 15:5). It represented a form of hypocrisy and a boastful falsehood. Also, did Jesus curse the barren tree to show His anger at religious form without substance? (See 2 Tim. 3:5). Form without substance will never satisfy hunger (Matt. 5:6).
Here in the scripture text above, Jesus was teaching His disciples that even in the face of natural barrenness or emptiness, faith in God is the substance—the confirmation and title deed—and never settle for just the form (Heb. 11:1). Faith in God is the substance when you direct your belief in God and not the object of your desire (Rom. 12:3). Have faith in God!
So, what did the fig tree have to do with faith? By faith, God is able to accomplish things with ease that are most difficult (Mark 11:22). Faith is the means to deal with and remove difficulties in life (Mark 11:23). And, faith is the substance of things yet to be manifested.