Mat 21:17 Then He returned to Bethany, where He stayed overnight.
Mat 21:18 In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, He was hungry,
Mat 21:19 and He noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then He said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up.
Mat 21:20 The disciples were amazed when they saw this and asked, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?”
Mat 21:21 Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen.
Mat 21:22 You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.”
Why does Jesus kill a harmless fig tree?
It is interesting that many atheists or even agnostics will look at this interaction and call it an act of violence or anger; but I see it much differently. First let’s look at the interaction with the fig tree and then let’s look at the following teaching.
Jesus was hungry. It was morning and time to break-fast, so as He was approaching the fig tree from a distance it had leaves and looked promising as a source of food. He approached it with a need- a need to be satisfied. When he got close to the fig tree He quickly realized that it had no fruit at all to give Him and help His hunger. Now He says to the fig tree, “May you never bear fruit again!” And it immediately withers up.
It is my belief that Jesus was not emotionally responding to a tree that wasn’t giving Him what he wanted, but out of an opportunity to teach the disciples that were with Him. So what was the lesson?
What is the lesson in the withering of the fig tree?
Lesson: From a distance one can look like a fruit bearing tree, but when approached with true need they can bear no fruit at all. The problem is hypocrisy. The problem is lack of faith, because real faith produces fruit.
Why do I come to this conclusion about the lesson in the withering of the fig tree?
There are two reasons that I reach this conclusion. One based on what had happened previous to this encounter; the other based on the teaching that follows.
1. Previous to the withering of the fig tree Jesus had cleansed the temple. What was He cleansing it from? Hypocrites. They were fruitless and not helping anyone. This is shown by the fact that the sick and crippled were not allowed into the temple of God. Jesus cleans out the thieves who were stealing the blessing of God, keeping it for themselves,and the sick and crippled come to him in the temple to receive healing. This was the true purpose of Gods Temple on earth…to heal the “sick”, not keep them out.
2. After the withering of the fig tree Jesus teaches about the power of faith. Notice that the problem he approaches is faith. What do we know true faith produces?…fruit. The disciples will remember this moment later and realize what Jesus was trying to get them to understand. It wasn’t just about the ability of faith to move mountains (because asking for things is always done in the name (character) of Jesus) but about what faith produces – fruit. Faith without fruit (works) is dead (withered). True faith can move mountains, or cause a sinner to bear fruit. 🙂
Works is not “not sinning”. Works produces fruit. Being fruitful when someone comes to you in need and having life giving “fruit” to share with them is works. Sometimes those who think of themselves as the worst sinners in the world are the most fruit bearing people of all. Being fruitful is not being a hypocrite. Being a hypocrite is looking like a tree but having no fruit to give.
Dear Lord in Heaven,
I praise Your Name today Lord because I, a lowly sinner, have the promise of Your love and blessing and healing power if I come to You. I come to You today asking for the covering righteousness of Jesus. I praise You for supplying what I could never do. I ask now to be filled with the Holy Spirit that You may produce fruit through me today. Thank You for Your blessings. Thank You for Your mercy and love. Forgive my sin and keep my family safe from harm today. I love You Lord. Amen.