18 In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he was hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the wayside he went to it, and found nothing on it but leaves only. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. 20 When the disciples saw it they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” 21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and never doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will be done. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” Matt. 21:18-22 (c.f. Matt. 17:14 -20; Mark 11:13-14&20-24)
Presumably, Jesus was returning to Jerusalem from Bethphage, where he had spent the previous evening. Bethphage means house of figs, likely an indication that figs were grown in the area. There are plenty of references in the Talmud to Bethphage, but whether it was in Jerusalem, or just south is not known for sure.
The Fig Tree
Messiah linked His cursing of the fig tree to a curse upon Israel because they were producing no fruit. In the Scriptures, there are three trees that are used as symbols for Israel: the fig tree, the vine and the olive tree.
- The vine is the symbol of Israel’s spiritual conditions [Ps 80:8-10]
- The fig tree symbolizes Israel’s national/political conditions [Hos 9:10; Mat 24:32-35; Mark 13:28-31; Luke 21:30]
- The olive tree symbolizes Israel’s religious conditions [Jer 11:16; Rom 11:17]
When Jesus came as a merciful and forgiving Messiah, Israel’s national or political leaders were not ready to accept Him. They wanted and expected a warrior king. Thus, the ruling Elders of Israel rejected the long awaited “Consolation of Israel.” In rejecting Jesus as Messiah, they rejected God and His plan.
He uses the fig tree to explain the fact that they have presented him with NO fruit. Their grand ceremonial temple, their pious pronouncements of who was righteous, and their rigid interpretation of the Law, where unable to presented Him with the fruit He required.
Those in charge of the temple had over the centuries made it harder and harder for people to approach God. The instructions in the Torah (Pentatuch) for the construction of the tabernacle indicated there was no outer court, no court of the Gentiles, nor a court of the women. Outside of the Holy Place where only the priests could go, was just the courtyard where the altar of sacrifice and the laver were. No exclusions were made.
The disciples were amazed that Jesus could cause the fig tree to wither, simply because it was bearing no fruit! Jesus tells His disciples that those who have faith will be able to do the same, to even move “mountains.” In the symbolic language of prophecy, “mountains” represents nations or countries. [Is. 13:4; Jer. 4:24; Jer. 51:25; Ezek. 36:1; Hab. 3:6; Zech. 4:7; Rev. 16:20] In cursing Israel, Messiah is prophesying that His followers will be the ones to bring great monumental changes in the world.
We believers began moving these mountains in 476 A.D. when courageous faith and actions brought down the Roman Empire. Christianity became the dominant force in the world and the Roman Empire could not stand without the worship of the Emperor. When the Empire fell apart, it broke into ten little nations. (see chart) These ten nations were prophesied in Daniel chapter 2, which has feet and toes of iron and clay.
Believers are able to move the imperial powers of this present age! For a time we did as the European powers built their empires partly to spread the gospel. But, those empires where corrupted. In time God’s people again went to their knees and those Empires have all since collapsed. It is now time to ask for the obliteration. As the ten little kingdoms have been under Satan’s control for some time now. Then a Great Nation will grow in their place [Dan 2], when a risen Messiah will rule on His throne forever!
Even though it may look like we are fighting against wicked nations and wicked peoples, our fight is with spiritual rulers of this present darkness. They seem to us as immovable mountains or invincible foes.
For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Eph. 6:12
The powers of darkness move people and nations to hate, persecute, and kill God’s people. But, the gates of hell will not overcome the Church!
. . . I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matt 16:18b
When this present kingdom of Satan’s power is defeated, it will be replaced by a “mountain” that shall never be moved.
. . . just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be hereafter. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.” Dan. 2:45
Next Week: The Two Sons