Summary: We expect the big things from Jesus, and are thrilled with them. But here he is, doing a rather small miracle that seems a little out of place. But what is going on, and what can we learn from it?
Passage: Matthew 21:18-22
Intro: We are getting a glimpse today into the everyday life of the two natures of Jesus Christ.
1. theologians will tell us that Jesus walked on the earth as a fully human being.
2. and at the same time, He was fully God.
3. so this little event of the withering fig tree becomes very instructive to us.
4. because while we may be only human, we have within us the very Holy Spirit of God.
5. and that holy divine presence within us changes everything.
6. we are redeemed humans, no longer under the authority of our sinful nature, and Satan
7. additionally, we have a reconciled relationship to God that empowers us to cooperate with God’s will and purpose in the world.
8. and I believe what we are seeing here is a normal day in the life of such a person, perfectly at one with the purpose of God, and exercising that oneness through prayer.
9. and at the end we will find that He expects us to do the same, because the potential is there.
I. A Day in the Life of Jesus
1. try as I might, I could not get past the blatant normality of this event.
2. no conflict, no healing, no confrontation.
3. just a hungry man looking for food
4. in an agrarian society, this was common practice. Gleaning, stripping kernels of wheat.
5. but when he got there, he saw that the promise of food was empty.
6. leaves, but no figs.
7. now let’s talk about fig trees for a minute.
8. in this climate zone, leaves began to come out on fig trees in March and April, but not “full of leaves” until June
9. this tree was full of leaves at Passover, (March or April) but without the figs it should have had.
10. in other words, it was making a promise it could not keep.
PP) fruitful fig tree, fruitless fig tree’, “false advertising”
11. the tree was lying! It was demonstrating the fallenness of creation.
12. to the Lord of the Universe, the empty promise of fruit was an abomination.
13. so in a little preview of what will happen to the fallen creation at the end of this world, Jesus cursed it and it withered.
14. I know that the traditional interpretation is that the fig tree symbolizes Israel. OK.
15. but you don’t get that from the text, and the disciples really missed it then.
16. there is a matter-of-factness here that we cannot miss.
II. The Disciples Troubling Response
1. the disciples responded to this “miracle” predictably.
2. same way we would. “amazed”
3. lack of faith, fear, is normal behavior for fallen human beings.
4. search the OT and the NT, and you will see this over and over.
5. fear is the normal response, faith is exceptional.
6. the consistent characteristic of all the heroes of the Bible is their exceptional faith that overcame their natural human response of fear.
Il) Daniel, Moses, Joshua, David, …
4. and no doubt Jesus found this fear quite amazing. He had never experienced it in heaven.
PP Matthew 8:26 Calming the storm.
5. but Jesus response here to the disciples is great!
6. “you think that was amazing?”
7. you can be so transformed, out of your fearful amazement and into faith warriors for whom nothing will be impossible. It is normal!!
8. the God who made and rules the physical world is not frustrated by it.
9. it is His world! And when a human being is released from fear to faith, he loses his fear of it as well.
Il) great story about a church who had a big problem, but a bigger God.
10. now the key here is what Jesus refers to in v22
11. faith is the key to powerful prayer, so we need to get a good understanding of it as Jesus practiced it.
III. What Believing Prayer Looks Like
1. v22 is one of those statements we need to understand.
2. pretty remarkable, given rise to some false beliefs.
3. we try to “drum up” faith, by shouting magic phrases.
4. if the prayer has to be shouted, there is a problem.
5. Believing prayer is calm, because it springs from a confident relationship with God, and the firm belief that whatever God does is the very best.
6. so it is submissive, not demanding.
7. fear demands from God, faith bows before Him. Fear presumes, faith trusts
8. the prayer of faith believes there is nothing outside of God’s power, though it may be outside His will.
9. faith factors God into the equation, praying according to His perfect plan and will.
10. that means we pray for the greatest miracle of all; the reconciliation of God’s enemies to Himself.