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Fig Trees and Mountains


Fig Trees and Mountains

Text. Matthew 21:18-21

It’s the very last week of Christ’s earthly ministry.  Jesus and his disciples were returning to the city on the morning after the cleansing of the temple. 18 Now in the morning, as He returned to the city.  Matthew Henry reminds us of the poverty of Christ.  He would have had no sustaining breakfast before he left, and so he sought common food along the way, as the law permitted.  That’s when they encountered a certain fig tree..


Fig Tree


1. The Fruitless Fig. He was hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away.

Now, when I read this I immediately wondered, what’s a fig tree like? So I did some simple research on the internet.  What’s special about fig trees?   The fruit of a fig tree was abundant, for unlike most plants, the fig tree bears fruit twice a year.  In the late spring, – early summer, say around June, the fig tree blossoms and fruits.  When the fruits are all gone the tree begins to spurt new shoots from its old flowers, producing new wood on the tree.  When that wood grows, around September, the new shoots bear a second harvest.  So WHY IS JESUS LOOKING FOR FIGS ON A TREE IN APRIL – THE TIME OF THE YEAR WHEN FIGS DON’T GROW – and stranger still, WHY DOES HE CURSE THE TREE FOR BEARING NO FRUIT WHEN IT NEVER BEARS FRUIT IN THAT SEASON?

There can be only one reason – Jesus is teaching his disciples and us a lesson!  HE LOOKS FOR FRUIT, and when he doesn’t find any fruit he removes the fruitless plant! The tree had leaves – which was early in the season, and it gave the appearance of a tree that could bless and nourish and sustain – but it was a hollow empty promise.  It looked outward good, from a distance – but it bore no fruit.   Jesus applies this in his teaching on the vine in John,  John 15:1-2   Let’s seek to apply this as a practical lesson…

  1. The Jewish Church.  The Jewish Church, the OT Israel had never borne fruit for God, they had been unfaithful, they had worshipped other gods, they had stoned the prophets and killed the messengers.  They bore no fruit,  and they rejected the Messiah whom God had sent to redeem them, and that was the entire purpose of their redemptive history.   But now, God had determined that they would be uprooted and destroyed.  In essence this is what the chapter is all about.  See how Jesus shows us that the fruitless Jewish Church is to be be uprooted and removed…
  2. The Local Christian Assembly. Revelation 2:4-5   There is no doubt that Jesus is warning this church that he has the power to close them don.  Is one of the reasons that our churches are so empty today, because our previous generations of Christians fell far short of what God wanted from them?  Where they loveless fallen, backslidden empty hearted legalistic husks.   
  3. The Christian Believer.  Galatians 5:22-23  We MUST bear fruit.  Jesus looks for fruit from me as much as he did from that fig tree.


2. A Lesson about Prayer.

The lesson doesn’t stop with the fruitless tree being struck and destroyed.  It leads to another lesson for the disciples, and it’s not the lesson they expect.

  1. The Astonished Question. 20 And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?” Matthew records that when Jesus cursed the fig tree, it withered immediately. Now, when we think of ‘immediately’ we think of something happening suddenly and instantaneously before our very eyes.  But in Mark’s account of the incident, we read that it was the next morning before the disciples noticed any difference in the tree – the process that begun when Jesus cursed the tree, was only visible to the observer after a period of time. Mark 11:20  The disciples want to know why the fig tree, a huge beast of a tree, a tree that has stood for hundreds of years possibly, has withered to death – within just a few hours.  
  2. The Unanticipated Answer.  Jesus doesn’t answer their question in the way that they might expect – by explaining how the tree died so soon.  Instead he sues this to teach them a lesson on prater.  
    1. The Mountains of Life.  21  Many times, when you hear this preached about, you will be told it is about your faith (or lack of faith).  But it’s actually about prayer -and what prayer really is. I really don’t think Jesus gives Christians the ability to wither trees!  Neither does he expect us to physically move Slieve Donard.  So what is this about then?  
      1. The trees and the mountains are FIGURATIVE.  They are an illustration.  We all face mountain in life, mountains that sometimes seem to be impassible.  Trouble, problems, unemployment, poverty, sickness, bereavement and death – there are great difficulties and Christians are not exempt by any means.  We all face mountains.
      2. Prayer is NOT about asking God for an easier life! You’d be surprised at how many people think that God will take away all their difficulties, and all their problems, when he does nothing of the sort.  So look carefully at the wording.  When we have faith in God, when we believe him, and take him at his word – YOU will command the mountain!  Not that you will ask Did to take the mountain away – you will deal with your problem, face up to it, tackle it with help of the Lord, and he will strengthen and equip YOU for the task!  If we grasp that truth, we’ve arrived at the rue meaning of this lesson.  So Jesus teaches them about …
    2. Believing Prayer. 22 And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.  So have faith!  When you pray – believe!  Matthew Henry writes, Faith is the soul, prayer is the body; both together make a complete man for any service. Faith, if it be right, will excite prayer; and prayer is not right, if it do not spring from faith. This is the condition of our receiving—we must ask in prayer, believing.

So, Jesus teaches the disciples two very important lessons.  The Christian believer will be fruitful for God, and when we face the mountains that challenge our lives, and God doesn’t take them away, he will give us strength to deal with them, with His help.

© BobMcEvoy April 2019

From → Bible Study, Matthew

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