The Cursing of a Fig Tree: Matthew 21:18-22
[See also Mark 11:14-20]
18 When He [Jesus] was going back to the city in the morning, He was hungry. 19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, He went over to it, but found nothing on it except leaves. And He said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again.” And immediately the fig tree withered. 20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed and said, “How was it that the fig tree withered immediately?” 21 Jesus said to them in reply, “Amen, I say to you, if you have faith and do not waver, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done. 22 Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.”
For Study and Reflection: Jesus’ act of cursing the fig tree may seem like a random (and somewhat ill-tempered) action but, similar to those of the Old Testament prophets who symbolize their preaching (i.e. Ezekiel 12:1-20), it is actually a prophetic one.
The cursing of the fig tree is a sign of pending judgment soon to come upon Israel. With all its apparent piety (particularly referring to that of chief priests, pharisees, and scribes), Israel lacked the “fruit of good deeds” (Matthew 3:10). Because of that, it will soon bear the punishment of its fruitlessness. It should also be noted that Jesus’ answer to the amazed disciples question (Matthew 21:20) makes this miracle a great example of the power of prayer made with unwavering faith.
By cursing the fruitless fig tree, Jesus emphasized also the importance (and power) of generous acts. Good deeds of charity not only demonstrate who we are in Christ (“by their fruits you will know them” –Matthew 7:16), but also win others to Him. The image of moving a mountain signifies clearly that what is humanly impossible becomes possible when our efforts coincide with faith, trusted prayer, and expectation.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your path...” –Proverbs 3:5-6.
Today when you pray, trust with total faith and expectation that, if it is God’s will for your life, your prayer will be answered. Sometimes no answer is the answer. Sometimes His timing is the answer. Listen for Him and wait patiently. God is with you and God will bless you. Trust Him.