"On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, 'Is it not written: "My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations"? But you have made it "a den of robbers."'" NIV translation
On this second entrance to Jerusalem, Jesus went to the temple courts which was the place of the Gentiles. He found that it was more of a business than a place for people to meet to pray. He drove the businessmen out and quoted from the prophet Isaiah. We notice that He did not condemn the businessmen but simply let them know that there was a time and a place for business and it was not at the temple.
One might wonder what Jesus would think if He entered some of the "churches" of today where all kinds of things are sold. What would He think of the bookstores, coffee shops, etc.?
"The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city." NIV translation
The religious leaders knew that they had to get rid of Jesus. They saw that the people accepted His teaching and so they feared losing their positions. This was how they survived and kept their families. There was no way they were going to let Jesus establish His kingdom at their expense. Once again, they left the city to spend the night at Bethany.
"In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, 'Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!'" NIV translation
The next morning, they began their third and final trip into Jerusalem. On the way, Peter noticed that the fig tree was dead and he excitedly pointed it out to Jesus.
We notice that the disciples wondered at the fact that the words that Jesus spoke were fulfilled but they didn't even bother to ask why He had said them. Even at this late stage in Jesus' ministry on earth, they were still more focused on the physical than the spiritual things.
So, why did Jesus curse the tree? Even though it was not the season for ripe figs, the tree was all decked out like it was time and this is a picture of what was going on in the temple. There were all kinds of religious leaders putting on a show of serving God but, in reality, it was only a show. This is similar to what Jesus said to the church in Laodicea about being neither hot nor cold (see Revelation 3:15 & 16).