Summary: What happens when Jesus inspects your life? He cursed the fig tree because it didn’t bear fruit - why? And how do we bear fruit for our Savior?
I have three fruit trees in my backyard. I would not call it an orchard – just three trees – a plum, a pear, and an apple. It’s not an orchard, nor am I an orchardist – or whatever you are when you have an orchard. I think my trees know it too – they get together every winter and say "how are we going to goof up Tom’s ability to grow edible fruit this year?"
I used to have another apple tree – but it grew so crooked that the apples were all misshapen on one side – no, not really. But I was always afraid it was going to fall over – and then there was that half of the tree that broke off. Anyway – I cut that one down. The apple tree that’s left grows a great crop each year – of worms – and tiny little apples that all fall on the lawn so my lawn mower can slice them up and spit apple juice all over me.
Then there’s the plum tree. It produces great plums. Let’s see, this year I think I got three – actually the dog got three. Now each August the tree’s leaves turn yellow and fall off. The pear tree – now that baby produces pears like nobody’s business. The only trouble is, the guy who sold us the tree didn’t tell us about Comice pears – that they have this tough skin that makes them almost completely inedible.
There’s nothing so wonderful as finding a ripe piece of fruit to pick right off the tree and eat. And there’s nothing as frustrating as going up to a tree that ought to have lots of fruit and find nothing. That’s true in trees and true in life. When you find something or someone that really provides sustenance – something you can take away with you, something that really makes your life better – more meaningful – it’s great. Conversely, when you come on something that looks great on the outside but inside its empty – all show and no substance – you feel cheated.
That’s the situation we find today as we continue our study in the book of Matthew. Jesus is living His last days on earth – and it’s time to take out all the stops and draw the real distinction between a dead religion, and an alive Savior – and it all starts with a real live parable.
18 Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry.
I just want to point out the fact that Jesus was hungry. Jesus was human – He got hungry, He got tired, I’m sure He got blisters when He worked in construction with Joseph. Why is this important?
Hebrews 4:15-16 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Jesus is God – and He is our high priest – our entry to God. And yet He is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. That’s why we can approach His throne of grace with confidence – we can be confident that God knows us, identifies with us, understands us – yet loves and forgives us through His unmerited favor – His grace.
So Jesus was hungry – He’s walking along on the road.
19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, "May you never bear fruit again!" Immediately the tree withered.
Okay – so what’s going on here? Fig trees were a source of inexpensive food in those days. In March, fig trees would put forth edible buds, and then in April the tree put forth green leaves – and then the figs. This took place in April – Jesus expected to find buds, but all He saw were leaves.
Mark actually tells us that Jesus cursed the tree on Monday, and when the disciples returned on Tuesday morning, the tree was withered.
20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. "How did the fig tree wither so quickly?" they asked.
21 Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, 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. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."