Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.
Jesus cursed a fig tree that didn’t bear fruit — and it instantly withered and died. Naturally, his disciples were puzzled. Why? How? What just happened?
This was a teaching moment, a lesson on faith and a parabolic warning against unfruitfulness.
In Matthew 21, after triumphantly riding into Jerusalem and hailed as the long awaited messianic king, Jesus encounters ungodly behavior, resistance, and rejection.
Angered by the buying and selling in the temple, he threw them out, calling it a “den of robbers.” (v13) God’s intent for His temple was as a “house of prayer.”
Then the sick came to him and he healed them while children continued to praise him.
Jesus’ popularity, teaching, and miracles had already been a source of agitation to the religious leaders. Now, hearing people praise Him as the fulfillment of prophecy, that was just too much. So, they confronted Him.
Jesus responded with scripture. “From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise.g” (v16) The kids got it. The priests and the teachers of the law didn’t.
The next morning, Jesus headed back to Jerusalem, and that’s when He encountered the unfruitful fig tree. He was hungry, but the tree was useless, unproductive, and of no value. It looked like a tree. Even had leaves. But NO fruit. As a consequence, it was destroyed.
Yesterday, we talked about “the fruit of the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22-33) It’s by our fruit we show we are Christians — or not. Jesus uses this parable to show the futility of religion without fruit. Godliness is not based on what you say about yourself or claim to be. Godliness is revealed in your actions — your behavior and character. If faith is real, then there will be works to back it up. “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26)
So why did Jesus curse the tree? In that act, He revealed His authority and power to judge.
The judgement of God is an unpopular subject in our day. More acceptable are the feel-good uplifting messages of encouragement and hope. Naturally so. I prefer them, too. But to ignore the Biblical instruction on hell and judgement is a refusal to love everyone.
Warning is an act of love. We warn our children, “Look both ways before you cross the street.” “Don’t talk to strangers.” “Drive safely.” Public service messages warn us to “Say NO to drugs and don’t drink and drive.” What we’re saying is, “Don’t do these things because you could be killed.” Why then should we shy away from warning our loved ones and others about God’s judgement?
When I was a kid, I hated to watch a Billy Graham crusade on TV. Scared me to death. I didn’t want to go to hell. Oh, but my grandmother never missed his program. We were going to watch it whether I liked it or not, which turned out to be a good thing. The fear caused by his message led me to grace, and the wonderful reality of God’s gift of eternal life.
Jesus also used the fig tree incident to teach His disciples about faith. With faith they could do more than they ever thought possible. “You think cursing this tree was something. You can do even greater things, even move mountains.”
As people of faith with the power of God behind us, we can move mountains, not just for ourselves but for the benefit of others.
The faith that moves mountains is a group of people coming together to build houses for those who can’t afford it. Case in point, Habitat for Humanity. It can be collecting canned goods for the poor or joining with others to provide a shelter for the homeless.
Faith doesn’t move all mountains, but it accomplishes amazing things — sometimes beyond our wildest dreams.
My wife has been cancer free for ten years. Doctors said I had cancer that was off the charts, and it disappeared. And I could go on and on about all God has done for me and how He has answered my prayers.
Don’t sell your Christianity short by minimizing the power of faith. Once that judgement issue is in your rearview mirror, it’s time to bear good fruit, to believe God’s promises, and put your God-inspired faith to work. Get to work. Move a mountain.
For more on this topic, check out this article: Child-Like Faith Explained and Why You Need It
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 2 (April – June) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.