The Withered Fig Tree

Q. I have searched all your posts but cannot find anything on Matt 21:18-22, specifically verse 19b, Then He said to it, ‘May you never bear fruit again!’ Immediately the tree withered. Non christian friends say this shows a selfish, anger problem. I’m not too sure how to answer them scriptually. Can you please help? Thankyou again for sharing your gifts with us. It has helped tremendously.

A. This shows the truth of Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 2:14 to the effect that people without the Spirit cannot understand the things that come from the Spirit of God. A few days after the Lord cursed the fig tree, He would endure an extremely painful beating and then give His life to pay for our sins. At the end of His ordeal He would ask God to forgive those involved for killing Him, and you say your unbelieving friends think He’s selfish and has an anger problem.

The cursing of the fig tree has been called the Lord’s only negative miracle and it confuses many, but when you think of the fig tree as a model of Israel it makes perfect sense.

Using Mark’s account of this event helps because it’s one of the few places where he actually provides more detail than Matthew. It can be found in Mark 11:12-14 & 20-21. The fig tree was in leaf so it appeared to be alive, but had no fruit. (It wasn’t in season yet.) Israel appeared to be alive as well, but just like the tree the nation was bearing no fruit for God. In Israel’s case it should have been the season because the Messiah was in their midst, but they didn’t recognize Him.

Jesus cursed the tree and said it would never bear fruit again. In Matt. 21:43, Jesus said that the Kingdom would be taken away from Israel and given to a people who would produce its fruit. He was talking about the Church and from that day to this Israel has produced no fruit for God, but the Church has produced much.

In Mark 11:20 the disciples remarked that the tree was withered from the root. This was to demonstrate that Israel was dead at its roots, meaning that their religious leaders were the cause of their disease.

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