Walking in Truth Devotional Update
The Withered Fig Tree
(Mat 21:17-22; Mk 11:12-14, 20-22)
Critics love to use this story to discredit Jesus. “Why would Jesus curse a defenseless tree for failing to have figs when Mark said, “it is not even the season for figs?” The critics are accusing Jesus of being mean-spirited and unreasonable. Such an accusation is proof they lack understanding of the passage.
The term “cursed” does not mean that Christ used profanity. This curse was a pronouncement of judgment causing the tree to die. Jesus did not attempt to steal from someone’s fig tree, nor did He destroy property belonging to another. In that day it was customary for travelers to pick fruit from road-side trees for travelers (“And seeing a fig tree by the road” Matt. 21:19).
Alfred Edersheim has called attention to the fact that “in Palestine the fruit appears before the leaves” (p. 374). Thus, to see a leafed fig tree (even at an unseasonable time — v. 13b), warranted the assumption that there would be fruit on the tree. Essentially, the tree was a picture of false advertising, having leaves but no figs. Therefore, this tree was an oddity; the leaves were there, but it was fruitless. This phenomenon, therefore, served as a perfect “visual aid” for an important lesson the Savior wished to teach regarding the failure of Israel, God’s people, to bear fruit.
The whole incident was a teaching moment for the disciples. Jesus had just cleansed the temple by driving the money changers out because they had corrupted His Fathers’ House of prayer. The pronouncement of judgment on the fig tree was a lesson regarding Israel’s failure to be faithful to God, their failure to bear fruit by being the people they should have been, and for their rejection of Jesus, the Messiah. The prophets often described Israel as a fig tree in referring to their status before God (Jer. 8:13; 29:17; Hos. 2:12; etc.). The religious leaders not only refused to accept Jesus, they determined to get rid of Him.
In verses 22-26, Mark points out the lesson of Jesus on faith, prayer, and forgiveness. “Have faith in God. 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. Therefore, I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (v. 22-24).
Jesus is not explaining how to curse fig trees, He is explaining what should be learned from this event. He is also emphasizing the fact they should have faith in the magnificent power and goodness of God. Whatever is asked in faith, without doubting, will be granted, if it is within the context of God’s goodness and His will. “Mountain” was a popular figure of speech for any insurmountable problem; Jesus said, that as we believe, God could overcome any obstacle.
This promise of God’s answer to the prayer made in faith was made to disciples, not to the multitude. “Nor should we interpret Mark 11:24 to mean, ‘If you pray hard enough and really believe, God is obligated to answer your prayer no matter what you ask.’ That kind of faith is not faith in God; rather it is nothing but faith in faith, or faith in feelings.” (Wiersbe)
This is a great lesson teaching us to be faithful and bear fruit for the Lord. If we fail as Christians to bear fruit the same judgment of God will be applied to us.
By Guy Roberson
If you know of someone who would benefit from this devotional list please refer them to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you choose to unsubscribe please send an email with unsubscribe in the subject to email@example.com