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Matt. 21:18-22 By Glenn Pease
I quote a few contemporary commentators, and if any do not wish their quotes included in this study they can let me know, and I will delete them. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
1. This account is also in Mark 11 and there are some differences in the account. Dr. S. Lewis Johnson in a message on this event gives us this explanation: “It is another one of those incidents in the Bible which is described to not only in one of the synoptic gospels but also in others, and in this case the incident of the withered fig tree is also found in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 11. The interesting thing about these two accounts is that according to the Matthian account, the incident evidently occurred on the Tuesday morning following our Lord’s entrance into the city, on Palm Sunday, whereas in the Markan account the description is divided and part of the incident occurs on Monday and part on Tuesday. The reason for this, in case some of you may have wondered in reading through the Gospel of Matthew and Mark, is that Matthew is a gospel that records the events in our Lord’s life topically, whereas in Mark, there is much more given to chronological detail. So we read this in the Matthean account, but realize that it occurred actually in two states: one stage, the first day our Lord cursed the tree; the next day, as the apostles and disciples came by the tree again, they marveled that the tree had so quickly withered up and evidently had died.” 2. Spurgeon, “This is a miracle and a parable. We have books upon the miracles, we have an equal number of volumes upon the parables: into which of these volumes shall we place this story? I would answer, put it in both. It is a singular miracle, and it is a striking parable. It is an acted parable, in which our Lord gives us an object-lesson. He gets truth before men's eyes, in this instance, that the lesson may make a deeper impression upon the mind and heart. I would lay great stress upon the remark that this is a parable; for, if you do not look upon it in that light, you may misunderstand it. We are not of those who come to the Word of God with the cool impertinence of the critic, thinking ourselves wiser than the Book, and therefore able to judge it. We believe that the Holy Spirit is greater than man's spirit, and that our Lord and Master was a better judge of what is right and good than any of us can be. Our place is at his feet: we are not cavillers, but followers. Whatever Jesus does and says, we regard with deepest reverence; our chief desire is to learn as much as we can from it. We see great mysteries in his simplest actions, and profound teaching about his plainest words. When he speaks or acts, we are like Moses at the bush, and feel that we stand on holy ground.”
The Fig Tree Withers 18. Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry.
1. Jesus had skipped breakfast apparently, for he is said to be hungry, but nothing is said about the disciples. They probably ate while Jesus was out alone in prayer, and now he is walking back to the city and his stomach is growling. He naturally looks for a source of some food from a tree that would be handy to the road. If nothing else, this story teaches that is is not good for anyone to skip breakfast; not even if you are the Son of God in human flesh.
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.
1. This is an interesting account of Jesus cursing a fig tree, and it is recorded by both Matthew and Mark. It is interesting because it is revealing a side of Jesus that we do not see elsewhere. It seems that he is angry at the tree for not supplying any food at a time when he is hungry. It is a disappointment, and he is saying that if it does not have fruit for me now, it can wither up and never bear fruit again. This seems out of character for Jesus, for it seems sort of petty, and a very impatient action. It was a miracle that did not produce any good, but instead led to a negative consequence that benefited nobody. He eliminated a source of food for other people in the future. This and the miracle of casting the demons into the pigs that made them run into the sea and drown (Matthew 8:30-32) are the only two destructive miracles of Jesus. This last one is also the only reference to deviled ham in the Bible. How can this cursing of a tree be a good way to use his supernatural power? The main idea we will see in the commentators is that this tree represented fruitless Israel. It was all leaves and no fruit. It seemed to offer fruit, for it looked good, but it was false advertising, and it deserved judgment for it was supposed to be a blessing to the Gentile world, but it had no such blessing to offer. It was a failure, and so it was cut off from being God's agent in the world to be a blessing to all mankind. Israel was replaced by the church to be God's agent to fulfill the promise to Abraham that through his seed all the people of the world would be blest. The cursing of the tree was symbolical of the cursing of Israel. She had no fruit to share with the world, and so she ceased to be a source of fruit, and so no longer would people enter the kingdom of God through her. It is suggested as well that the tree was likely diseased, and so it was valid to curse it and make it die, for it was a worthless source of healthy fruit. It was not a negative thing in that case,
but a blessing for people in the future, for they would no longer be deceived by this tree. It would no longer entice people by a false hope. 2. Barnes, “It was therefore common property and anyone might lawfully use its fruit. Mark says Mar_11:13, “Seeing a fig-tree afar off, having leaves, he came,” etc. ot far off “from the road,” but at a considerable distance from the place where he was. Having leaves, and appearing healthy and luxuriant, they presumed that there would be fruit on it. Mark says Mar_11:13, “he came, if haply he might find anything thereon.” That is, judging from the “appearance” of the tree, it was “probable” that there would be fruit on it. We are not to suppose that our Lord was ignorant of the true condition of the tree, but he acted according to the appearance of things; being a man as well as divine, he acted, of course, as people do act in such circumstances. And found nothing thereon but leaves only - Mark Mar_11:13 gives as a reason for this that “the time of figs was not yet.” That is, the time “of gathering” the figs was not yet, or had not passed. It was a time when figs were ripe or suitable to eat, or he would not have gone to it, expecting to find them; but the time of gathering them had not passed, and it was to be presumed that they were still on the tree. This took place on the week of the Passover, or in the beginning of April. Figs, in Palestine, are commonly ripe at the Passover. The summer in Palestine begins in March, and it is no uncommon thing that figs should be eatable in April. It is said that they sometimes produce fruit the year round. Mark Mar_11:12-13 says that this took place on the morning of the day on which he purified the temple. Matthew would lead us to suppose that it was on the day following. Matthew records briefly what Mark records more “fully.” Matthew states the fact that the fig-tree was barren and withered away, without regarding minutely the order or the circumstances in which the event took place. There is no contradiction, because Matthew does not affirm that this took place on the morning after the temple was cleansed, though he places it in that order; nor does he say that a day did not elapse after the fig-tree was cursed before the disciples discovered that it was withered, though he does not affirm that it was so. Such circumstantial variations, where there is no positive contradiction, go greatly to confirm the truth of a narrative. They show that the writers were honest men, and did not “conspire” to deceive the world. And said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee ... - Mark calls this “cursing” the tree Mar_11:21. The word “curse,” as used by him, does not imply “anger,” or disappointment, or malice. It means only “devoting it to destruction,” or causing it to wither away. All the “curse” that was pronounced was in the words “that no fruit should grow on it.” The Jews used the word “curse” not as always implying “wrath or anger,” but to devote to “death,” or to any kind of destruction, Heb_6:8. It has been commonly thought that the Saviour performed this miracle to denote the sudden “withering away” or destruction of the Jewish people. They, like the fig-tree, promised fair. That was full of leaves, and they full of professions. Yet both were equally barren; and as that was destroyed, so they were soon to be. It was certain that this would be a good “illustration” of the destruction of the Jewish people, but there is no evidence that Jesus intended it as such, and without such evidence we have no right to say that was its meaning. “And presently the figtree withered away.” That is, before another day. See Mark. It is probable that they were passing directly onward, and did not stop then to consider it. Matthew does not affirm that it withered “away in their presence,” and Mark affirms that they made the discovery on the morning after it was “cursed.” 3. Henry, “See his justice, Mat_21:19. He went to it, expecting fruit, because it had leaves; but,
finding none, he sentenced it to a perpetual barrenness. The miracle had its significance, as well as others of his miracles. All Christ's miracles hitherto were wrought for the good of men, and proved the power of his grace and blessing (the sending the devils into the herd of swine was but a permission); all he did was for the benefit and comfort of his friends, none for the terror or punishment of his enemies; but now, at last, to show that all judgment is committed to him, and that he is able not only to save, but to destroy, he would give a specimen of the power of his wrath and curse; yet this not on any man, woman, or child, because the great day of his wrath is not yet come, but on an inanimate tree; that is set forth for an example; Come, learn a parable of the figtree, Mat_24:32. The scope of it is the same with the parable of the fig-tree, Luk_13:6. (1.) This cursing of the barren fig-tree, represents the state of hypocrites in general; and so it teaches us, [1.] That the fruit of fig-trees may justly be expected from those that have the leaves. Christ looks for the power of religion from those that make profession of it; the favour of it from those that have the show of it; grapes from the vineyard that is planted in a fruitful hill: he hungers after it, his soul desires the first ripe fruits. [2.] Christ's just expectations from flourishing professors are often frustrated and disappointed; he comes to many, seeking fruit, and finds leaves only, and he discovers it. Many have a name to live, and are not alive indeed; dote on the form of godliness, and yet deny the power of it. [3.] The sin of barrenness is justly punished with the curse and plague of barrenness; Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. As one of the chiefest blessings, and which was the first, is, Be fruitful; so one of the saddest curses is, Be no more fruitful. Thus the sin of hypocrites is made their punishment; they would not do good, and therefore they shall do none; he that is fruitless, let him be fruitless still, and lose his honour and comfort. [4.] A false and hypocritical profession commonly withers in this world, and it is the effect of Christ's curse; the fig-tree that had no fruit, soon lost its leaves. Hypocrites may look plausible for a time, but, having no principle, no root in themselves, their profession will soon come to nothing; the gifts wither, common graces decay, the credit of the profession declines and sinks, and the falseness and folly of the pretender are manifested to all men. (2.) It represents the state of the nation and people of the Jews in particular; they were a figtree planted in Christ's way, as a church. ow observe, [1.] The disappointment they gave to our Lord Jesus. He came among them, expecting to find some fruit, something that would be pleasing to him; he hungered after it; not that he desired a gift, he needed it not, but fruit that might abound to a good account. But his expectations were frustrated; he found nothing but leaves; they called Abraham their father, but did not do the works of Abraham; they professed themselves expectants of the promised Messiah, but, when he came, they did not receive and entertain him. [2.] The doom he passed upon them, that never any fruit should grow upon them or be gathered from them, as a church or as a people, from henceforward for ever. ever any good came from them (except the particular persons among them that believe), after they rejected Christ; they became worse and worse; blindness and hardness happened to them, and grew upon them, till they were unchurched, unpeopled, and undone, and their place and nation rooted up; their beauty was defaced, their privileges and ornaments, their temple, and priesthood, and sacrifices, and festivals, and all the glories of their church and state, fell like leaves in autumn. How soon did their fig-tree wither away, after they said, His blood be on us, and our children! And the Lord was righteous in it.” 4. Gill, “And when he saw a fig tree,.... In the Greek text it is "one fig tree", one remarkable fig tree: he must see a great many, as he went along; for a large tract of the Mount Of Olives was full of fig trees, and therefore called "Bethphage": and notice has been taken already of the figs of
Bethany: but he saw none that had such large and spreading leaves as this; for it was the time when the fig tree was just budding, and putting forth its leaves: wherefore he took notice of it; and though it was "afar off", as Mark says, yet being hungry, he made up to it, expecting, from its promising appearance, to find fruit on it. This fig tree was "in the way"; by the road side, and probably had no owner; was common to anybody, and so no injury was done to any person by losing it: he came to it, and found nothing thereon but leaves only: Mark says, "he came, if haply he might find anything thereon"; which must be understood of him as man; for as he hungered as man, so he judged and expected as man, from the appearance of this fig tree, that he might find fruit upon it; and which is no contradiction to his deity, and his having the Spirit of God, as the Jew (t) objects; and especially since, as Bishop Kidder (u) observes, such an expectation is attributed to God himself, in Isa_5:2 and it may be added, and with regard to that people, of which this fig tree was an emblem, and designed by Christ to be considered as such in what he did to it. The same evangelist further observes, "and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for the time of figs was not yet". The word "yet" is not in the original text; which last clause is a reason, either why he found no fruit, or nothing but leaves upon it, because it was not a time, or season of figs: it was not a good fig year, so Dr. Hammond interprets it; and yet though it was not, since this tree was so very flourishing, fruit might have been expected on it: and also, it furnishes out a reason why Christ took so much pains to go to it, seeing there were very few figs to be had elsewhere, and this bid very fair to supply him with some in this time of scarcity: or else, as a reason why, besides its promising appearance, he expected fruit upon it, because the time of figs, that is, of the gathering of the figs, was not come: in which sense the phrase is used in Mat_21:34; and is Bishop Kidder's interpretation of the passage: and since therefore the time was not come for the ingathering of the figs, none had been taken off of it, the more might be expected on it. This sense would be very probable, did it appear that figs were usually ripe about this time; but the contrary seems manifest, both from Scripture, which represents the fig tree putting forth its leaves, as a sign the summer is nigh, Mat_24:32 and from the Talmudists, who say (w), that the beginning of leaves, or putting forth of the leaves of trees, is in the month isan, the month in which the passover was kept, and so the then present time of the year; and who, from this time, reckon three times fifty days, or five full months before the figs are ripe (x): so that these words are rather a reason why Christ did not expect to find figs on other trees, which he saw in great abundance as he passed along, because the time of common, ordinary figs being ripe, was not come; and why he particularly expected to find some on this tree, because it being full of leaves, appeared to be of a different kind from other fig trees: and was either of that sort which they call " ,בנות שוחBenoth Shuach", as Dr. Lightfoot conjectures which were a kind of white figs that were not ripe till the third year (y). This tree put forth its fruit the first year, which hung on it the second, and were brought to perfection on the third: so that when it was three years old, it had fruit of the first, second, and third year on it: this being such a tree, by its being full of leaves, when others had none, or were just putting out, fruit, of one year, or more might have been expected on it, when it had none at all, and therefore was cursed: or it might be one of that sort which brought forth fruit twice a year; for of such sort of fig trees we read in the Jewish writings (z): and therefore though it was not the time of the common figs being ripe, yet this being one of the seasons, in which this tree bore ripe fruit, and being so very flourishing, might reasonably be expected from it: but there being none, he said unto it, let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever; or, as it is expressed in Mark, "no man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever": for if none grew on it henceforward, no man could
hereafter eat of it. Both expressions design the same thing, the perpetual barrenness of the fig tree: and presently the fig tree withered away: immediately, upon Christ's saying these words, its sap was dried up, it lost its verdure; its leaves were shriveled and shrunk up, and dropped off, and the whole was blasted. This tree was an emblem of the Jews: Christ being hungry, and very desirous of the salvation of men, came first to them, from whom, on account of their large profession of religion, and great pretensions to holiness, and the many advantages they enjoyed, humanly speaking, much fruit of righteousness might have been expected; but, alas! he found nothing but mere words, empty boasts, an outward show of religion, an external profession, and a bare performance of trifling ceremonies, and oral traditions; wherefore Christ rejected them, and in a little time after, the kingdom of God, the Gospel, was taken away from them, and their temple, city, and nation, entirely destroyed.” 5. Dr. S. Lewis Johnson Jr. “It was not the fruitlessness for which it was cursed, but the falsity of its profession. It was not the time of the figs yet. But it had this luxuriate growth, as if it did have figs upon it, and so our Lord Jesus comes to it, and because it had the promise of figs but lacked the performance of actual fruit, then it becomes the object of the divine curse. Both of these accounts stress the fact that when he went there he found nothing but figs [sic., leaves] so it was a case of a great profession but no reality. It was, in effect, a lying fig tree. ow Alfred Plummer, who is one of the better commentators, a British professor and commentator on the gospel of Matthew, has entitled this particular section, “The Cursing of the Braggart Fig Tree.” It was saying it had fruit when it really didn’t have it.” I could add that it is also a matter of hypocrisy which Jesus condemned in the Pharisees, and so Jesus by this curse is cursing hypocrisy. It is pretending to have what people need, when they really have nothing to offer. It is all external, and a painting of the graves while inside is nothing be dead bones. It is a religion of looks only, and no real fruit. 6. John Macarthur, “ ow what is the parable? Oh, it's obvious. The context, the circumstances, the first day He's on His way to the temple and He stops and curses a fig tree because it has nothing but leaves. It has a pretense of fruit but no fruit. And then from there He goes right in and cleanses the temple. Do you think there's a connection? Sure there's a connection. Sure there's a connection. That fig tree is symbolic of Israel. The leaves are symbolic of Israel's religious activity and the fruitlessness is equally symbolic of Israel. They have a form of godliness... right?...without power. They have a zeal for God without knowledge, Paul says in Romans 10:2. Jesus cleansed the temple and thus He denounced their religion. Jesus cursed the fig tree and thus He denounces their nation as fruitless. You see, fruit is always the indicator of salvation. You go back to Matthew chapter 7 and our Lord simply says in the Sermon on the Mount, "By their fruits you shall...what?...know them." You go to Matthew chapter 13, the parable of the four soils and you find the good soil and the good soil is seen as good soil because it produces what? Fruit, some hundredfold, some sixty- fold, some thirty-fold. And you go to John 15 verse 5, and it says every branch that abides in Me brings forth much...what? Fruit. Fruit is ever and always the manifestation of true salvation. And what God is saying here is Israel is a nation with a pretense of religion that is unsaved, unredeemed, lost, cut off from God. And He has in mind not only Israel but particularly Jerusalem which demonstrates this holy zeal for God's name, which busily engages in religious activity, all utterly fruitless. otice at the end of verse 19, "Immediately the fig tree withered away." When He cursed it, it
died. Mark 11:20 and 21 indicates the next morning when they came by it, it had died from the roots up, it had dried up. And they were awed by that. Verse 20, "When the disciples saw it, they marveled saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away." It died that fast. The next day they came by, it was already dead. What a symbol of what was coming to Israel.” 7. Spurgeon, “The blighted fig tree was a singularly apt simile of the Jewish state. The nation had promised great things to God. When all the other nations were like trees without leaves, making no profession of allegiance to the true God, the Jewish nation was covered with the leafage of abundant religious profession. Scribes, pharisees, priests and elders of the people were all sticklers for the letter of the law, and boaster of being worshippers of the one God, and strict observers of all his laws. Their constant cry was, "The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, are these." "We have Abraham to our Father" was frequently on their lips. They were a fig tree in full leaf. But there was no fruit upon them; for the people were neither holy, nor just, nor true, nor faithful towards God, nor loving to their neighbor. The Jewish church was a mass of glittering profession, unsupported by spiritual life. Our Lord had looked into the temple, and had found the house of prayer to be a den of thieves. He condemned the Jewish church to remain a lifeless, fruitless thing; and it was so. The synagogue remained open; but its teaching became a dead form. Israel had no influence upon the age. The Jewish race became, for centuries, a withered tree: it had nothing but profession when Christ came, and that profession proved powerless to save even the holy city. Christ did not destroy the religious organization of the Jews: he left them as they were; but they withered away from the root, till the Roman came, and with the axes of his legions cleared away the fruitless trunk.”
20. When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. "How did the fig tree wither so quickly?" they asked.
1. Barnes, “And when the disciples saw it - That is, on the morning following that on which it was cursed, Mar_11:20. They marveled, saying ... - Peter said this, Mar_11:21 Matthew means only to say that this was said to him; Mark tells us which one of them said it.” 2. Henry, “The disciples admired the effect of Christ's curse (Mat_21:20); They marvelled; no power could do it but his, who spake, and it was done. They marvelled at the suddenness of the thing; How soon is the fig-tree withered away! There was no visible cause of the fig-tree's withering, but it was a secret blast, a worm at the root; it was not only the leaves of it that withered, but the body of the tree; it withered away in an instant and became like a dry stick. Gospel curses are, upon this account, the most dreadful - that they work insensibly and silently, by a fire not blown, but effectually. 3. Gill, “And when the disciples saw it,.... The next day in the morning, as Mark says: they had,
heard what Christ had said to it the day before, as the same evangelist observes; but did not take notice of the immediate withering of the tree; but the next morning, as they returned from Bethany, they saw it dried up from the roots: they marveled; not that Christ should curse it, but that it should wither away so soon, and upon his saying what he did; which was a considerable instance of his power and Godhead, all creatures, animate and inanimate, being at his command and disposal: saying, how soon is the fig tree withered away? This was said by Peter, in the name of the rest, who recollecting what Jesus had said to it the day before, and observing how the event had answered his words so soon, addressed Christ after this manner: "master, behold the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away"; expressing his wonder at it, and ascribing, it to the power of Christ; of which this was an amazing proof and evidence.”
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.
1. Barnes, “Jesus answered and said ... - Jesus took occasion from this to establish their faith in God, Mar_11:22 He told them that any difficulty could be overcome by faith. To remove a mountain denotes the power of surmounting or removing any difficulty. The phrase was so used by the Jews. There is no doubt that this was “literally” true - that if “they had the faith of miracles,” they could remove the mountain before them - the Mount of Olives - for this was as easy for God to do by them as to heal the sick or raise the dead. But the Saviour rather referred, probably, to the difficulties and trials which they would be called to endure in preaching the gospel. 2. Henry, Christ empowered them by faith to do the like (Mat_21:21, Mat_21:22); as he said (Joh_14:12), Greater works than these shall ye do. Observe, [1.] The description of this wonder-working faith; If ye have faith, and doubt not. ote, Doubting of the power and promise of God is the great thing that spoils the efficacy and success of faith. “If you have faith, and dispute not” (so some read it), “dispute not with yourselves, dispute not with the promise of God; if you stagger not at the promise” (Rom_4:20); for, as far as we do so, our faith is deficient; as certain as the promise is, so confident our faith should be. [2.] The power and prevalence of it expressed figuratively; If ye shall say to this mountain, meaning the mount of Olives, Be thou removed, it shall be done. There might be a particular reason for his saying so of this mountain, for there was a prophecy, that the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem, should cleave in the midst, and then remove, Zec_14:4. Whatever was the intent of that word, the same must be the expectation of faith, how impossible soever it might appear to sense. But this is a proverbial expression; intimating that we are to believe that nothing is impossible with God, and therefore that what he has promised shall certainly be performed,
though to us it seem impossible. It was among the Jews a usual commendation of their learned Rabbin, that they were removers of mountains, that is, could solve the greatest difficulties; now this may be done by faith acted on the word of God, which will bring great and strange things to pass. 3. Clarke, “If ye have faith, and doubt not - See on Mat_17:20 (note). Removing mountains, and rooting up of mountains, are phrases very generally used to signify the removing or conquering great difficulties - getting through perplexities. So, many of the rabbins are termed rooters up of mountains, because they were dexterous in removing difficulties, solving cases of conscience, etc. In this sense our Lord’s words are to be understood. He that has faith will get through every difficulty and perplexity; mountains shall become molehills or plains before him. The saying is neither to be taken in its literal sense, nor is it hyperbolical: it is a proverbial form of speech, which no Jew could misunderstand, and with which no Christian ought to be puzzled. 4. Gill, “ Jesus answered and said unto them,.... His disciples wondering at his power, in causing the fig tree to wither so suddenly: verily I say unto you, if ye have faith; that is, in God, in his power, which reaches to all things: the object of faith is expressed in Mark, and by way of exhortation, "have faith in God", that he will enable you to perform whatsoever ye shall desire; which must be understood, not of spiritual faith in the promises of God, and person of Christ, but of, the faith of miracles, or faith in the power of God to perform things that are above the strength of nature: and doubt not; either of the power, or will of God to do for you, and by you, the thing desired; for this kind of faith would not admit of the least degree of doubting: there must be no hesitation in the mind, no reasoning upon the thing, how it can be performed; the mind must not be divided between the power and will of God, and the difficulties and discouragements which attend the case, but must believe in hope against hope, with a full persuasion of accomplishment: for want of this faith, without doubting, the disciples could not cure the child that was lunatic. Ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree; cause one to be dried up, and wither away by a word, as Christ had done to this, which, comparatively speaking, was but a lesser sort of miracle; but also, if ye shall say to this mountain; the Mount of Olives, where Christ and his disciples now were, and were passing over, or, at least, were very near it; or any other mountain wherever they might be, to which they should, upon any occasion, think fit to say, be thou removed, and cast into the sea; which was many miles off from Mount Olivet, and must he a very surprising performance for a mountain to be rooted up, so large as that was, and be carried several miles from its former situation, and be thrown into the sea; and yet, as difficult and amazing as this may seem, it shall be done: that is, provided the person doubts not; or, as it is said in Mark, "shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things, which he saith, shall come to pass, he shall have whatsoever he saith": for this must not be confined to the particular instances of drying up a fig tree, or removing a mountain, but the doing of any sort of miracle, how great soever. or is it our Lord's meaning that they should do these particular things; nor is it certain that they ever did: but his sense is, that, had they faith, they should be able not only to do such lesser miracles, as, comparatively speaking, the withering of the fig tree was, but they should be able to perform things much more difficult and surprising, whenever the good of the souls of men, the propagation of the Gospel, and the glory of God required them.” 5. IVP Commentary, “"Moving mountains" was a Jewish metaphor for accomplishing what was
difficult or virtually impossible (as in AR 6A; 12, 29B). Like the prophets of old, Jesus' disciples could do whatever God called them to do (compare 7:7-11; 10:8; 17:20). Faith, of course, implies obedience to God's wishes, not simply acting on our own. Given the surrounding context of conflict, Jesus' model of faith includes facing death bravely in obedience to God's call-and trusting his power over death itself.” 6. John Macarthur, “ ow obviously that's not literal. That's a picture of power. I don't know if you know it but in Jewish literature, a rooter up of mountains was a metaphor for a great spiritual leader. It's in the Babylonian Talmud that they call the great rabbis "rooter up of mountains". In other words, people who could remove great obstacles, people who could solve great problems, people who express great power. "Rooting up mountains" became a metaphor for dealing with difficulty, dealing with impossible situations. And the Lord is saying, "Look, I want you to know that you have this power and this power is available to you through faith. If you would believe and not doubt, you can see God's power." It's like recorded in the gospel of John in the upper room when the Lord said to them, "Greater works than these shall you do because I go to My Father." In other words, there's great power available. John 14, He says, "Whatever you ask in My name, I'll do it." And in verse 22 He sums it up by saying, "All things, whatever you shall ask in prayer, believing you shall receive."This is a tremendous thing. They're saying, "Lord, what power, You wished that tree dead and it was dead." And He says you've got the same power available. You've got the same power. And He turns it into a lesson about prayer for them, that you can see the same power working if you believe.” 7. G. Campbell Morgan, “The Hebrew people had become GOD's greatest hindrance instead of GOD's greatest help; and officially and positively He flung the nation away, declaring in detail how that judgment should fall within a generation. Within one generation the Roman legions had swept through the city, and it was flung down until no stone was left upon another. He was thus flinging a mountain of difficulty out of the way of GOD, that He might move forward according to the purpose of His heart, in blessing to others. So men of faith, operating through faith, are able to take hold of the power of GOD for the accomplishment of the purpose of GOD, that purpose being the setting up of His Kingdom. GOD operates through faithful men, but men can do nothing toward removing mountains of difficulty without GOD. So that when CHRIST tells us we are to have faith, it is not merely an individual thought, it is not merely in order that a soul may be saved; it is that, but it is in order that we may be workers together with Him, in order that we may fling the mountains of difficulty away, and make the high places smooth, and fling up the valleys to levelness.” 8. My conclusion: Morgan's words above helped me get a grasp on what the connection is with the fig tree and moving mountains with prayer. If the fig tree represents Israel, and it is made to wither and die as a resource of fruitfulness for the kingdom of Christ, and Jesus says his disciples can do the same thing, meaning that they too can cut off the role of Israel's negative effectiveness for the kingdom by the power of the Holy Spirit, then it follows that the moving of the mountain means that they will have even greater power than Jesus had. In other words, the Apostles will have power to defeat the powers of Israel and remove this mountain of opposition to the Gospel. This is exactly what we see in the book of Acts. The church began to take over the people of faith in Israel, and among the Gentiles until it was the source of power and fruit for God in the world. The mountain of Israel with all of its opposition was eventually cast into the sea, and it lost its
role completely in being God's agent to change the world. They prayed to this end, and their prayers were answered, for those few men went on to change history as no 12 men ever have. One mountain after another was cast out of the way as they marched on with the unstoppable power of faithful prayer. The history of Christianity is really a history of mountain moving, for endless obstacles have had to be moved out of the way for the cause of Christ to conquer. The practical application is that if we set out minds to overcome any obstacle to the advancement of the kingdom of Christ by earnest prayer for God's help, we can be assured that he will come to our aid in removing whatever mountain it is that stands in the way. When your prayers are in full harmony with God's clearly revealed will, you will be given the power to move mountains to achieve that will.
22. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."
1. Barnes, “And all things ... - He adds an encouragement for them to pray, assuring them that they should have all things which they asked. This promise was evidently a special one, given to them in regard to working miracles. To them it was true, but it is manifest that we have no right to apply this promise to ourselves. It was desired especially for the apostles; nor have we a right to turn it from its original meaning. There are other promises in, abundance on which we “may” rely in prayer, with confident assurance that our prayers will be heard. Compare the notes at Mat_7:7-11. 2. Henry, “The way and means of exercising this faith, and of doing that which is to be done by it; All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. Faith is the soul, prayer is the body; both together make a complete man for any service. Faith, if it be right, will excite prayer; and prayer is not right, if it do not spring from faith. This is the condition of our receiving - we must ask in prayer, believing. The requests of prayer shall not be denied; the expectations of faith shall not be frustrated. We have many promises to this purport from the mouth of our Lord Jesus, and all to encourage faith, the principal grace, and prayer, the principal duty, of a Christian. It is but ask and have, believe and receive; and what would we more? Observe, How comprehensive the promise is - all things whatsoever ye shall ask; this is like all and every the premises in a conveyance. All things, in general; whatsoever, brings it to particulars; though generals include particulars, yet such is the folly of our unbelief, that, though we think we assent to promises in the general, yet we fly off when it comes to particulars, and therefore, that we might have strong consolation, it is thus copiously expressed, All things whatsoever.” 3. Gill, “And all things whatsoever,.... ot only miracles, but any other thing which may be for the honour of God, the interest of religion, the spreading of the Gospel, the enlargement of the kingdom, of Christ, their own spiritual good, and the welfare of immortal souls, ye shall ask in prayer, believing. Munster's Hebrew Gospel reads it, "in prayer, and in faith"; and the Arabic version renders it, "in prayer with faith"; both to the same purpose, and aptly express the sense of the words, which design the prayer of faith; or that prayer which is put up in the strength of faith; and is of great avail with God: for whatever is asked in faith, agreeable to the will of God,
which is contained in his covenant, word, and promises, and makes for his glory, and the good of his people, shall be given, be it what it will; though to carnal sense and reason it may seem impracticable and impossible: ye shall receive; of God, through Christ, freely and fully, and shall have and enjoy them, either they themselves, if asked for themselves, or others, for whom they are asked. 4. Dr. S. Lewis Johnson Jr. “It means of course that if the faith that has been given by God exists in a certain thing, you can expect that answer to be answered, but God answers prayers with no’s as well as with yes’s. And what is meant here is not to be taken out of the context of the ew Testament in which he says if you ask anything according to his will he hears you. So you see when we read this we are not to understand that we are going to have a blank check and no matter what we ask, no matter if it is the Lord’s will or not, we are going to get it. I am so thankful it is that way, because I have asked so often for things that really were bad for me, and it is obvious as time goes by that they were bad for me. One of the fortunate things about being related to the Lord is that he sits so high in the heavens that he is able to see down the road a little bit, and therefore he knows what is best over the long run, and when he says no, those no’s are the best things in the world for us. So it is great to have a God who cares for us and who does say no.” It has been said, and I think this is true, that there are two primary interpretations of the fig tree. Some have said, when the Lord Jesus said, let no fruit grow on thee hence forward forever, in reference to the fig tree, that he was referring to the Jewish nation as a whole. ow if you turn to the Old Testament you will find some passages – not many but some passages – in which it appears that the fig tree is a symbol of the ation Israel. Hosea 9:10, it seems to me, is such a place, and therefore when he said, let no fruit grow on thee hence forward forever, those who take this as a reference to the Jewish nation say what he is saying is, as a result of their disobedience and the rejection of the Messiah, he was saying that there was no national future for Israel thereafter. Let no fruit grow on thee hence forward forever, Israel. ow I must confess that I have a problem with that interpretation, because of that time expression, forever. Because when you read the Old Testament and the ew Testament you see that there are manifold passages that describe Israel’s national or ethnic future. We all remember the passage in Romans chapter 11 verse 26 which says, “And so, all Israel shall be saved,” and I think a fair reading of that context must refer that expression to the future. All Israel shall be saved in the future. There is going to be a national or ethnic restoration of Israel to her promised Abrahamic blessings, so if this refers to the ation Israel, then there is some contradiction in the word: let no fruit grow on thee hence forward forever. Therefore I like to refer, and I think I am correct in this the expression of the fig tree, not to the Jewish nation, but to the generation of the Jewish nation that was on the earth when our Lord was here and which rejected him. So it is for that generation that this implication or curse is. ow back in the 12th chapter and the 39th verse, the Lord Jesus had made reference to this generation, he had said, an evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign there shall no sign be given to it but the sign of the prophet Jonah. Again in chapter 16 and verse 4 he said the same thing. So the curse then stands upon the generation of the nation that was on the earth when the Lord Jesus was here. ow that of course is a curse that stands fulfilled and will be fulfilled on into the future. You see what happened was that when the Lord Jesus came, the generation on the earth that should have responded to his Messianic claims did not, but actually carried out with the gentiles the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus. It is upon them that the curse is pronounced.”
5. John Macarthur, “There are paradoxes in the Bible that I don't understand and I know God has a sovereign will and I know God answers prayer sovereignly and I know God is in charge of everything and I know He does exactly what He wants to do but I also know the Bible says that I'm supposed to pray persistently and I'm supposed to pray faithfully and I'm supposed to pray believing that what God says is what God wants. And what God says He's able to do is in fact what He is able to do. And if my faith will grow and grow and persist and persist and persist, I'll see the power of God. And some of you are not seeing God work in your life simply because there's no persistence in your prayer. There's no continuance in your prayer. There's no strengthening. You don't get an answer so you quit. And it's not mustard seed, it's something else. Mustard seeds start small, gets big. Boy, when I see a verse like 22 of Matthew 21, all things whatever you shall ask in prayer, believing you shall receive, that's a pretty dynamite promise, folks. And if you understand that that means all things in the will of God, it doesn't hurt it, it just makes it all the better, right? Because what do you want? You only want what God wills, right? I want whatever God wants for me. I want the best that God wants for me. I want the best that God wants for you. I want the best that God wants for this church. I want the best that God wants for this ministry, whatever it is, I want that with all my heart I want that. And here the Lord says if you really believe God wants that, and God can do that, then let's see the exercise of your faith in persistence. And some of us have not received the blessing of God in our lives simply because we have not persisted in prayer. Somebody wrote, " othing but leaves and the Spirit grieves over a wasted life. Or sins committed while conscience slept, promises made but never kept, hatred, battle and strife, nothing but leaves. othing but leaves, no garnered sheaves of life's fair ripen grain, words, idle words, for earnest deeds, we sow our seeds low, tares and weeds we reap with toil and pain, nothing but leaves. othing but leaves, memory weaves no veil to hide the past, as we retrace our weary way, counting each lost and misspent day, we find sadly at last nothing but leaves. And shall we meet the Master so, bearing our withered leaves, the Savior looks for perfect fruit, we stand before Him humble mute, waiting the words He breathes...nothing but leaves."
If you go to the site below you will find an entire book on prayer, and many other free books of Bible Study. http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-ChristianBooks
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