Matthew – God’s Purposes
I love to grow plants of all kinds. I win some and lose some in this hobby, but I still like to watch God’s creation grow to bloom. You get a little dirty in this work but it is worth all the effort. I love watching fruits and vegetables form from the blooms. It is all amazing to watch. As a family, we love eating the fruits of our labor.
How disappointing it is when a plant does not produce, withers and dies right before your eyes after all the love and care you gave it. Is this how Jesus felt about the fig tree? Or was he thinking of something (or someone) else as he passed by wanting to eat a few figs for breakfast but finding none to eat?
Matthew 21, NLT
Jesus Curses the Fig Tree
18 In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, 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.
20 The disciples were amazed when they saw this and asked, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?”
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. 22 You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.”
That Jesus would curse a tree may surprise us. The same power that killed the tree could also have given it new life and fruit. Jesus certainly would not hold a tree morally responsible for being fruitless. When we consider the time and place of this event, we understand it better.
Jesus was near Jerusalem in the last week of His public ministry to His people. The fig tree symbolized the nation of Israel (Jer. 8:13; Hos 9:10, 16; Luke 13:6–9). Just as this tree had leaves but no fruit, so Israel had a show of religion but no practical experience of faith resulting in godly living. Jesus was not angry at the tree. Rather, He used this tree to teach several lessons to His disciples.
God wants to produce fruit in the lives of His people.
Fruit is the product of life. The presence of leaves usually indicates the presence of fruit, but this was not the case. In the parable of the fig tree (Luke 13:6–9), the gardener was given more time to care for the tree, but now the time was up. This tree was taking up space and doing no good.
Jesus used this event to teach His disciples a practical lesson about faith and prayer. The temple was supposed to be a “house of prayer,” and the nation was to be a believing people. But both of these essentials were missing. We too must beware of the peril of fruitlessness.
Do we look good, smell good but no fruit is apparent in our own lives? Do we think that just going to church is enough? Do we think that if we work hard enough the fruit will come?
What IS the fruit Jesus is looking for in us? See Galatians 5 for an understanding of living a life that bears a likeness to Jesus Christ. Here is a portion:
6 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.
19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.
Ah, so now we get it, right? Allow God’s Holy Spirit to reign supremely in us and through us. The fruit will come through obedience to His Spirit as we yield to Him every day of our lives.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Do what it takes to grow me. But be gentle. I know you are not finished with me yet. I still need all you have to be all you want me to be. I’m willing. I’m listening. I’m ready to follow You wherever You lead. Fruitfulness is your desire so it is my desire, too.
In Jesus Name, Amen