As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. (Mark 11:20)
Many have wondered about this story where it seems clear that Jesus explicitly caused a death, at least the death of a tree. While Jesus never even came close to causing death to a living being, this incident was so unlike the life-giving Jesus that His disciples were caught by surprise when they saw the dramatic effect that just His words had on the tree in a very short time.
What was going on there? Clearly Jesus was not just miffed by a tree that didn't have fruit when it had the appearance that it might. He knew it was not the season for figs, yet He examined the tree looking for fruit anyway. I am told that fig trees do have fruit when their foliage is full, unlike most other fruit trees. I don't know myself for I have never been around a fig tree, but evidently something much more profound is going on in this story besides just a pretentious tree leaving Jesus to go hungry.
Another passage comes to my attention that may provide an important clue as to what Jesus might have had in mind related to this tree demonstration.
Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 3:8-10)
Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Luke 3:8-9)
Notice that the axe, whatever that symbolizes, is directed at the root of the trees, not the base or the trunk. Disconnecting a tree from its roots or removing the roots is a very effective way of terminating permanently the life of a tree. But what is the main purpose that Jesus intended to illustrate when He told the fig tree it would never bear fruit again?
This story occurred just a few days before the people God had long before chosen to represent Him on this earth, would not only reject Jesus' version of God emphatically, but they would be so hostile about the kind of God Jesus came to reveal that they would kill Him in the most vicious manner available to them at the time through crucifying Him. This would assure that He would experience the most public humiliation and shame as well as the greatest torture providing a clear deterrent for anyone ever considering again believing in a God as wimpy and spineless as the one Jesus appeared to represent.
Another passage comes to mind that links this idea of roots to one of the primary motives of those feeling compelled to eliminate Jesus.
See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled. (Hebrews 12:15)
The Jews of Jesus' day were certainly very bitter toward Jesus, partly because He rejected their views of God while demonstrating through powerful miracles and signs and authoritative teaching a radically different kind of God, that if embraced by the masses would undermine the entire fabric of society and authority as they had it arranged. This bitterness was shared by Judas, one of the disciples of Jesus who became increasingly frustrated with repeated refusals on the part of Jesus to assert Himself and exercise His clear advantages to do the work everyone expected a Messiah to do. Judas finally became so fed up with Jesus' methods confounding his own plans for success that Judas finally took the extreme risk of forcing Jesus into a corner through betrayal of His trust in Judas, hoping that Jesus might finally react defensively and take seriously the expectations Judas and most other people had for Him.
We know how miserable that plan backfired for Judas and how it compelled him to commit suicide as he realized Jesus was never going to become the sort of Messiah so many wanted Him to be. The jealous Jewish leadership on the other hand unleashed all their pent up animosity and hatred and even demonically inspired fury to do everything possible to exterminate all credibility and attractiveness that Jesus had acquired during His ministry. The roots of these people's lives clearly were not in harmony with the kind of life Jesus came to give humanity. Their fruit was full of poison from roots of bitterness that certainly defiled a great many people, especially during the last hours of Jesus' life on earth.
In the Bible trees often represent nations. Interestingly at the very beginning of our world, two competing systems of government and even how to perceive reality were represented by two trees. The tree that our parents chose to embrace as the way to do things on this planet was not the tree God wanted them to choose. The tragic result of their choice was that every human being since that time has been born with a strong infection of selfishness imbuing them with propensities toward evil that prevents all of us from being able to live naturally in love as we were designed for originally.
The roots we inherit in our lives can never produce healthy fruit, fruit reflective of the goodness of God flowing out of a heart of pure love like His. Rather the fruit that is produced by our selfish hearts is fruit that exploits others, grasps for personal advantage at the expense of others and leads us into suffering and death. Without radical intervention by our Creator our entire race was headed for extinction under the tyranny of the chief demon in the universe doing everything possible to genetically modify humans to reflect his character instead of God's.
Jesus was God's strategic intervention into the human race to reverse the curse and neutralize the power of bitterness and selfishness. He came to bring life into a race destined for death. Jesus came and took on Himself our weakened nature and body, but unlike us He did not inherit propensities of evil. This was so that as a human He could accomplish a rescue salvage of all who would be willing to accept Him as their new human Father and implant into them a new nature like His.
Those willing to embrace His view of God receive injections of life-giving power into their spirit and mind that can heal and restore what has been damaged or lost as a result of the disease of sin. This is why Jesus is sometimes referred to as the root of Jesse. Coming in the lineage of David by identification through His human surrogate father Joseph, Jesus was unique as both a son of David (the great king of Israel that every Jew was so proud of), as well as the father of Jesse due to being the originator of all humans from Adam on down.
There is another root issue that Jesus came to address. The infection of sin came in when we participated in the tree that produces death in our lives by looking to it for nourishment and wisdom. But what we discovered was that its principles took over our lives and trapped us through deception in slavery to fear. This tree represented the government of the great tyrant and was used to bring humanity under his dictatorship based on principles embedded in that tree, principles which we now rely on in all of our relationships and that skew our perceptions of how God does things. This false image of God became our default way of thinking about Him and was the primary target for Jesus to expose and repeal in our hearts. He announced He had come to lay His axe at the root of the tree, that first Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil so we could be set free and be restored to again to eat from His Tree of Life.
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:1-5)
Jesus offers to replace our original roots we have inherited from the wrong tree in Eden with a whole new root system, a vine of divine origin with solid roots so full of life that the sap has power to produce different fruit in our lives from what we normally have. By connecting to Him consistently, entering into His rest and abiding in Him with our spirit, we can experience new life within us as His Spirit infuses us with new thoughts, motives and perceptions, especially regarding the kind of God we serve. And as our perception of God is transformed to be more and more Jesus-looking, so our reflection of God will be transformed and displayed in the way we think, act and treat those around us.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Now not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath, but both with those who stand here with us today in the presence of the LORD our God and with those who are not with us here today (for you know how we lived in the land of Egypt, and how we came through the midst of the nations through which you passed; moreover, you have seen their abominations and their idols of wood, stone, silver, and gold, which they had with them); so that there will not be among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of those nations; that there will not be among you a root bearing poisonous fruit and wormwood. (Deuteronomy 29:14-18)
Check out this further compilation of verses containing references to roots.
Job 8:17 "His roots wrap around a rock pile, he grasps a house of stones.
Job 14:8 "Though its roots grow old in the ground and its stump dies in the dry soil,
Job 18:16 "His roots are dried below, and his branch is cut off above.
Isa 11:1 Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
Jer 17:8 "For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.
Eze 17:6 "Then it sprouted and became a low, spreading vine with its branches turned toward him, but its roots remained under it. So it became a vine and yielded shoots and sent out branches.
Eze 17:7 "But there was another great eagle with great wings and much plumage; and behold, this vine bent its roots toward him and sent out its branches toward him from the beds where it was planted, that he might water it.
Eze 17:9 "Say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Will it thrive? Will he not pull up its roots and cut off its fruit, so that it withers--so that all its sprouting leaves wither? And neither by great strength nor by many people can it be raised from its roots again.
Eze 31:7 'So it was beautiful in its greatness, in the length of its branches; for its roots extended to many waters.
Dan 4:15 "Yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze around it in the new grass of the field; and let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts in the grass of the earth.
Dan 4:23 'In that the king saw an angelic watcher, a holy one, descending from heaven and saying, "Chop down the tree and destroy it; yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze around it in the new grass of the field, and let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts of the field until seven periods of time pass over him",
Dan 4:26 'And in that it was commanded to leave the stump with the roots of the tree, your kingdom will be assured to you after you recognize that it is Heaven that rules.
Dan 7:8 "While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it; and behold, this horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth uttering great boasts.
Jonah 2:6 "I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, But You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God.
Jgd 5:14 "From Ephraim those whose root is in Amalek came down, following you, Benjamin, with your peoples; from Machir commanders came down, and from Zebulun those who wield the staff of office.
2 Kings 19:30 'The surviving remnant of the house of Judah will again take root downward and bear fruit upward.
Job 5:3 "I have seen the foolish taking root, and I cursed his abode immediately.
Job 29:19 'My root is spread out to the waters, and dew lies all night on my branch.
Job 30:4 Who pluck mallow by the bushes, and whose food is the root of the broom shrub.
Ps 80:9 You cleared the ground before it, and it took deep root and filled the land.
Pr 12:3 A man will not be established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will not be moved.
Pr 12:12 The wicked man desires the booty of evil men, but the root of the righteous yields fruit.
Isa 5:24 Therefore, as a tongue of fire consumes stubble and dry grass collapses into the flame, so their root will become like rot and their blossom blow away as dust; for they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.
Isa 11:10 Then in that day the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, who will stand as a signal for the peoples; and His resting place will be glorious.
Isa 14:29 "Do not rejoice, O Philistia, all of you, because the rod that struck you is broken; for from the serpent's root a viper will come out, and its fruit will be a flying serpent.
Isa 14:30 "Those who are most helpless will eat, and the needy will lie down in security; I will destroy your root with famine, and it will kill off your survivors.
Isa 27:6 In the days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will blossom and sprout, and they will fill the whole world with fruit.
Isa 37:31 "The surviving remnant of the house of Judah will again take root downward and bear fruit upward.
Isa 40:24 Scarcely have they been planted, scarcely have they been sown, scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth, but He merely blows on them, and they wither, and the storm carries them away like stubble.
Isa 53:2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
Jer 12:2 You have planted them, they have also taken root; they grow, they have even produced fruit. You are near to their lips but far from their mind.
Hosea 9:16 Ephraim is stricken, their root is dried up, they will bear no fruit. Even though they bear children, I will slay the precious ones of their womb.
Hosea 14:5 I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like the lily, and he will take root like the cedars of Lebanon.
Amos 2:9 "Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them, though his height was like the height of cedars and he was strong as the oaks; I even destroyed his fruit above and his root below.
Micah 5:14 "I will root out your Asherim from among you and destroy your cities.
Mal 4:1 "For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze," says the LORD of hosts, "so that it will leave them neither root nor branch."
Matt 13:6 "But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
Matt 13:21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.
Mark 4:6 "And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.
Mark 4:17 and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away.
Luke 8:13 "Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.
Rom 11:16 If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too.
Rom 11:17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree,
Rom 11:18 do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.
Rom 15:12 Again Isaiah says, "There shall come the root of Jesse, and he who arises to rule over the gentiles, in him shall the gentiles hope."
1 Tim 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Rev 5:5 and one of the elders said to me, "Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals."
Rev 22:16 "I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star."