August 17, 2020
The Barren Fig Tree – Matthew 21:18-22
On August 16th, 2020, Pastor Eric spoke on “The Barren Fig Tree”.
Watch video here:
My message this morning is entitled:
Lessons from the Barren Fig Tree
If you have your bibles turn with me to
Matt 21:18-22 NIV
Out of all the miracles Jesus did, miracles that brought healing, deliverance, resurrection, sight to the blind, and brought much joy to cities and villages everywhere He stretched his hand, this is the first time we actually see Jesus curse something.
Aren’t you glad you came to church this morning?
This episode of Jesus cursing the fig tree will teach us something important about our walk with God and about true spirituality.
This is a message is about the need to repent from just doing the motions and living a fruitful life with God.
We will also see what are the prerequisites for a life of answered prayers and this will all be in the same context the same narrative
Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry.
He’d just spent the whole night in prayer in Bethany, and now he was hungry.
We can see here that Jesus, although He is son of God He is also Son of Man.
This speaks of both the divinity and humanity of Jesus.
See, that’s the beauty of our faith.
We don’t follow a God that is out there in the Cosmos disconnected from our reality.
Jesus understands fully what you and I could go through in this life.
Your pain, your trials, your temptations, your issues He gets it.
Because although He is 100% Son of God, He is at the same time 100% Son of Man.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses (the NLT says to understand our weaknesses), but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet He did not sin.
In other words, Jesus gets it.
What ever we may be going through in this life, Jesus can relate, empathize, understand and provide true help.
18 Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry.
19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it …
Most of us may not be familiar with fig trees.
But, fig-trees were pleasurable things.
The fruit of the fig-tree was good and sweet. And so people would often go to a fig-tree to sit back, relax, and reflect while munching away at a fig.
If you recall in the first chapter of John, that’s where Nathanael was before meeting Jesus, he was under a fig tree, probably meditating in the word, reading, relaxing.
We go to a Tim Hortons, we go to McDonald for a coffee and read a news paper, we go to Starbucks or Chapters, they went under a fig tree.
19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves.
The tree Jesus went up to was unique. It was not the season for ripe figs.
Except, this one appeared to be in advance of all the others which happened from time to time but it was rare.
Fig trees naturally grow fruit before the leaves open, and the fig tree Jesus approached, was already covered with leaves, so the assumption is there’s going to be fruit on this one. The leaves are out.
There’s going to be something I can eat in that tree, something refreshing, sweet and so this tree in full leaf gave promise of well-developed fruit within it.
So Jesus, who was Hungry went to something that would appear to satisfy His hunger but it didn’t.
It had leaves but no fruit.
Now, Fig trees would often represent the nation of Israel.
And cursing the fig tree was Jesus’s way of saying that the whole nation had become spiritually barren before the Lord.
They had the form of religion but not the reality. They knew the right words to say, but their hearts were far from God. So this applied to Israel but it can also apply to us today.
And I think that we need to pay close attention to this because it’s a warning for us as well.
Having leaves and no fruit represents a person who does the rituals of christianity but does not cultivate a relationship with the founder of Christianity
This represents someone who has the appearance of being alive, but inside, there is nothing, no passion, no zeal, no fervour, no fruit.
This could also represents people who profess to be Christian but have no evidence of a relationship with Christ.
It represents a person who knows the right words in Church, who knows the songs but there is no love, mercy and grace towards others.
Every so often I meet husbands or wives who will talk about their marriage and their spouse and say things like: “she loves God, pastor, she listens to so many sermons, there’s no doubt that she loves God, we just wonder if she loves us, Because when she talks to us (me and the kids) there is no respect there is no encouragement there is only nagging”.
“He quotes the Bible pastor, he will debate scripture, he is so spiritual, but at home behind closed doors, he’s mean, he does his own thing, it’s like he doesn’t care about our family”.
I’ve met a man who recently gave his life to the Lord and then married a christian lady and she had a lot of members in her family who were professing to be christians, an so this man was like great, I’m part of a christian family, except when tragedy happened to his wife, she had to go to hospital, he had to take care of the home, the bills the kids, he had to work while visiting his sick wife. He was broken because for months, he didn’t get any support from her christian family. Not even a phone call to say how are you, is there anything I can do to help, how can we serve you how can we support you?
And he was getting a lot more support from non-christian relatives.
See, there was beautiful leaves but nothing in that tree to satisfy when hunger came.
That’s what happens when we think Jesus only cares about the leaves and not the fruit.
Only cares about the motions, the rituals, the outward appearance, the “I showed up” to church this morning but he doesn’t care that I hold grudges all week, that I refuse to forgive others, that I constantly gossip, live in bitterness and cuss every 2 minutes.
See attention needs to be more on the fruit then the leafs.
It needs to be more on how we live our faith than how we look.
It’s not just about go throughout the Bible that matters to God it’s allowing the Bible to go through you and change you.
Otherwise, our faith remains superficial and barren.
James chapter 2:17 says that
Faith without works is dead.
It’s no faith at all because authentic faith will have visible fruit to show.
So people should be able to say to you and I :
Excuse me, I can’t help but notice that you seem to have love for others.
I can’t help but notice that you have problems just like everybody else but you seem to alway be joyful, and there is a peace that seems to surround you.
And I notice that the colleague that you work with, he has quite a character, he is so hard to get along with but you, you are very patient with him.
I don’t know how you do it. You are full of goodness, you are faithful, you don’t leave the moment the going gets tough, we can count on you, I noticed you are gentle and you practice self control.
I can’t help but ask, are you a christian?
See based on what James said, people should be able to see something is different in us from the rest of the world without you telling them you are different.
If you and I have to tell people you are different and they didn’t notice, then maybe you have faith with no works.
Are you following?
Authentic faith is not I just say whatever comes to mind with filtering my words and I don’t care if I hurt people in the process.
I just act upon what I fell with no self control.
Oh she is in a bad mood today watch out.
Get out of her way.
No, there has to be a fruit of self control.
You say well how can I bear fruit? How can I bear much fruit?
Jesus will actually give us the answer to this question in John 15
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit;
So how do we bear much fruit? By remaining in Christ.
By walking with Christ.
By cultivating a relationship with Christ.
…apart from me you can do nothing.
So I said this before, I really don’t want you to leave this place or turn off the stream where ever your watching and say : “I got to go and work on my love, work on my patience ect…”
I don’t know about you but every time I try to work on my patience I become more irritated and impatient in the process.
How many know what I mean?
…apart from me you can do nothing.
See, this fruit is a by product of Jesus.
In Galatians 5 it is called the fruit of the Spirit.
It is the byproduct of God.
It comes when we are connected to Jesus.
It comes when we spend less time on rituals and more time on relationship with Jesus and His Word.
6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
This is how one can bear much fruit, is by growing in a relation with Jesus.
By hiding the Word in his heart so he or she can remember it and practice it and that is the Father’s glory.
Now what Jesus does to fig tree is pretty interesting.
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.
Jesus cursed the fig tree.
Now I want you to see something here.
The blessing of God brought fruitfulness and multiplication.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth
13 He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land—your grain, new wine and olive oil—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you.
4 The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.
Blessing = fruitfulness, multiplication, increase.
However, curse brought the opposite.
Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them; 17 then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and he will shut up the heavens, so that there will be no rain, and the land will yield no fruit
So blessing = multiplication, increase.
We see that a lot in the Old Testament.
Curse, brought the opposite, barrenness, fruitlessness…
Jesus cursed that fig tree and said to it:
May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.
We are going to pray for God to bless us with fruitful lives at the conclusion.
20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.
They were expecting something to wither over a week or more but it happened suddenly and they were amazed.
Listen to how the Lord responded to their behind the scenes question.
(they were paying more attention on how Jesus said it then what Jesus said and did.)
And Jesus will show them how.
And I want you to know that although it seems like we’re changing gears a bit in verse 21, it’s all part of the same context. It’s the same narrative, it fits together and you are going to see why in just a moment.
21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, 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.”
Now Jesus shows them prerequisites to a life of answered prayers.
1-The first thing He says is that we are to have faith when we pray.
Truly I tell you, if you have faith…
We spoke a bit on this last week so I won’t again today.
But to see more answered prayers in our lives we need to pray with faith.
2-Secondly, we need to destroy eradicate doubt
I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt…
What is doubt?
Doubt is a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction.
It’s the exact opposite of faith
the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
So, Faith, destroy doubt;
Thirdly speak the Word of God.
“Truly I tell you, 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.
I like how the Gospel of Mark records this verse:
Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.
So, Jesus is saying that if we have faith and do not doubt in our hearts that we can say.
We can speak to situations, to sickness,to things that are not aligned to God’s will to mountains to be moved and they will be moved.
Here’s a few examples of that.
When Peter and John where on their way to the temple to have church they saw a lame man begging at the temple gate.
And in Acts 3:6-8 we see
“Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk.”
You see what happened here? Peter said “walk”.
He spoke in the authority of the Lord.
He commanded the lame man to walk in Jesus name.
Friends, there are things because we received the authority of the Lord that we can command, we can speak to mountains to move.
One time, the Apostle Paul delivered a young girl from a spirit of divination. Watch how he did it:
… he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.
Acts 16:18 NIV
One more example from Paul
…listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.
Faith, destroy Doubt and speak.
Declare the will of God into existence.
I love how one author puts it:
You and I don’t need to ask God if we can destroy the devil’s work because we already have his wholehearted permission on this matter (Source).
And more than that, we have his command and authority to do so.
Listen to Matthew 10:8
8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
When you see something that doesn’t line up with the will of God speak.
When you see the works of the devil in a person’s life, declare the will of God into existence over that person.
Now I know some people have abused this text or similar ones and made it something that it isn’t.
They believe that if you blab it you receive it. This is maybe a little too extreme and far from what the Lord mean’t here.
Secondly, some people have misuse this text to believe that they could actually command God to do something and believe me when I say this is not the kind of message I’m sharing.
We don’t command God to do anything. He commands us.
And I also know, that the church today may not be fully exercising this form of spiritual authority because of those extremes.
But I want to say that even if some have abused what Jesus said and some went on the extreme or miss handled and misused it, it doesn’t change the truth.
Just because some are misusing the internet it doesn’t make all internet evil.
Just because some are mishandling money and using it evilly doesn’t mean that money is evil.
Jesus said if we say to this mountain:
‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.
So faith, destroy doubt, speak by declaring the Word of God with authority, but don’t be fooled, we are not done, there is a very important prerequisite here.
And that’s what we’ve been talking about before we got to verse 21.
And that is, you need a relationship with Jesus.
You need be connected to the vine for faith to work.
To destroy doubt and to declare the word of God over people or situations.
This is not just about speaking positive things into existence.
Just saying the right words over a situation won’t work if you don’t have a relationship with Jesus.
If you don’t believe me ask the 7 Sons of Sceva see how it turn out for them.
They thought deliverance happened by saying the right words.
The right formula.
The right line of command on a command prompt.
13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.
A little disclaimer here, don’t try to cast out a devil out of someone if you don’t know Jesus it may not turn out well for you.