19 Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He went up to it and found nothing on it except leaves. And He said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” At once the fig tree withered.
20 When the disciples saw it, they were amazed and said, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?”
21 Jesus answered them, “I assure you: If you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you tell this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done. 22 And if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
19 And whenever evening came, they would go out of the city.
20 Early in the morning, as they were passing by, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 21 Then Peterremembered and said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that You cursed is withered.”
22 Jesus replied to them, “Have faith in God. 23 I assure you: If anyone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.24 Therefore I tell you, all the things you pray and ask for—believe that you have received them, and you will have them. 25 And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your wrongdoing. [26 But if you don’t forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your wrongdoing.]”
37 During the day, He was teaching in the temple complex, but in the evening He would go out and spend the night on what is called the Mount of Olives. 38 Then all the people would come early in the morning to hear Him in the temple complex.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He went up to it and found nothing on it except leaves. And He said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” At once the fig tree withered.
This seems an unusual passage. At the beginning of Holy Week, Jesus kills a fig tree. The tree doesn’t seem to have done anything. But as we see in Jesus’ ministry, He never does anything without a purpose. So let’s look back and see where a fig tree was first mentioned in Scripture as we often hear echoes of past teachings.
In Genesis 3, right after the fall, Adam and Eve realized they were naked and sewed together loin clothes made of fig leaves, covering the things that make them most physically distinct from one another. They used fig leaves to hide from each other and from God.
Looking at the context of Scripture, Mark and Matthew put this teaching next to the account of Jesus cleansing the Temple. Jesus entered the Temple and cleared away the things that stood between God and His people, running off the money changers and those that bought and sold in the Temple courts. He took down the barriers that the religious establishment put up to be brokers of God’s merit.
We love this story—how Jesus comes in and clears the path to God, dealing with these hypocrites gathering their own gain in the name of God. We love God exposing other people’s sin and saving us from those impossible circumstances and their harm to us.
But we’re generally much less excited about Jesus dealing with our sin. We’d love a Savior that saves us from other people’s sin, from difficult circumstances, and from this broken world. We sometimes construct this straw man of a Savior to meet our wants, to make us comfortable and safe. We’d even shout “Hosanna” as He entered.
That’s not the Savior Jesus is, and it’s not the Savior Scripture presents. The greatest problem in each of our lives is our own sin. Without Christ, our sin literally kills us, as we are dead in our trespasses.
Like the people shouting “Hosanna!” as He entered Jerusalem then “Crucify him!” days later, we often confess Christ with our lips and crucify Him with our lives. We say we’re His followers, but once we realize the cost of that path we start to fall away.
An examination of our lives and decisions might not show that Jesus is the center. We hide behind excuses of cultural relevance, comfort, and convenience to disobey God.
When Jesus withers the fig tree, I wonder if He’s taking down the barriers WE put up between ourselves and God. We do that too, like the money changers in the Temple, trying to do things we believe benefit us but go against God’s teaching. We try to hide our true motives and heart.
Harkening back to our actions in Genesis, God now withers the fig tree, taking down our efforts to hide the things we have thought, said, and done in the dark. He now exposes these things to the Light.
Our lives are laid bare before Christ; we have no place to hide. The amazing thing about all this is when Jesus looked at us in our sin, He said, “I love you”—not in spite of what we’ve done, not in hopes we’d change. He loves us as we are.
Simple faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord saves us from our sin. He takes the penalty for our sin on Himself, dying in our place so that we may be forgiven. He does away with the penalty of sin in our lives, freeing us to love Him and love others in forgiveness and grace. No more hiding.
- So what did Jesus save you from? Had He not saved you from that, where you would be?
- What do you hide behind? What do you believe God can’t see in your life, those “secret” sins that we think are OK?