Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Fig Tree

And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.
Matthew 19:21 (ESV)

This has been one of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible. What was Jesus doing here, and what was He trying to tell us by cursing a fig tree? In this chapter we are shown three things about the nation of Israel, and each of these is also a warning to us today, so let's look at them and see what we can learn.

The first thing we see in chapter 21 is what is called the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. What we see here is a nation of people who are only interested in what Jesus can do for them physically; they want to make Him their king, but they don't want Him to be Lord. This could apply to many in the church today; they are only interested in staying out of hell, but they have no real desire to do His will.

Next we see the cleansing of the temple. In these verses Jesus is showing the Jewish people that even though they are religious outwardly they are corrupt on the inside. This is the second time during His ministry that Jesus has cleansed the temple which indicates that the leaders hearts never changed. This is a problem for us today as well. Jesus told Nicodemus that a person cannot enter the kingdom of God unless they are born again (John 3) and this still applies to us today. We have many in our churches who are religious, but that have never been born again.

This brings us to the fig tree. Jesus is now going to tie all of these events together in one picture so we can easily remember them. He walks up to a fig tree, sees that it has no fruit; He curses it and it withers. So again I ask, what is this showing us? Well, in this instance the tree represents the nation of Israel, and the leaves but no fruit on the tree represent that they are outwardly religious, but that inwardly there has not been a change (there is no fruit). By cursing the tree and the tree withering, Jesus is showing the nation that their unbelief has brought about their judgment. Because they have leaves (an outward show of religion) but no fruitfulness they are judged by Jesus, and isn't this the same thing we are warned about in Matthew 7:21 when Jesus says that not everyone who claims to be a Christian will enter heaven, but only those who do the will of His Father?
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