The Berean Expositor
Volume 54 - Page 103 of 210
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21: 18 - 22: 14.
pp. 85 - 91
Christ now leaves the Temple and the city and passes the night at Bethany (21: 17).
Bethany was the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, and possibly He stayed with them.
Early in the morning He returns to the city, and feeling hungry, He goes to a fig tree on
the side of the road, but instead of figs He found nothing but leaves (21: 18, 19).
"Then He said to it, `May you never bear fruit again!'. Immediately the tree withered"
(21: 19, N.I.V.).
Mark, in his account, adds that "the time of figs was not yet" (Mark 11: 13 A.V.), in
which case it seems unreasonable for the Lord to have expected fruit on it. But we
should know that the Palestinian fig tree normally produces fruit before the leaves. The
main fig crop was early autumn, but as this tree had leaves on it, there should have been
figs as well as the leaves, but the Lord Jesus found none there. The tree was a deceiver
and a hypocrite, so to speak. How well this typified the "evil and adulterous generation"
of Israel to whom the Lord came. There was plenty of religious show (leaves), but no
fruit (sincere faith in Him and His teaching). They would certainly not "enter the
kingdom of heaven". And so the fig tree immediately withered away, and this caused
amazement among the disciples (21: 20).
The Lord Jesus uses this to stress the efficacy of prayer which He had stressed at other
times. Verses 21 and 22 must be interpreted with the whole of His teaching on this most
important subject. It is easy to wrest these verses from their context and make them
mean that anything we ask the Lord will be granted. God is far too wise to act in this
way. How often we may be requesting things that will harm us, but for the moment we
do not realize this!
The verses that follow record another occasion when the leaders tried to trap the Lord,
like the question about tribute:
"Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while He was teaching, the chief priests and
elders of the people came to Him. `By what authority are you doing these things?' they
asked. `And who gave you this authority?'." (21: 23, N.I.V.).
The Lord counters this by asking a question Himself, and this would lead to an answer
to their query:
"Jesus replied, `I will also ask you one question. If you answer Me, I will tell you by
what authority I am doing these things'." (21: 24, N.I.V.).
John's repentance baptism represented his position as the forerunner of the Messiah.
The people had hailed John as a prophet (26). This was known to the Sanhedrin and
these leaders should have decided by now whether he was a true prophet or not. If he
was a prophet (and they did not dare to say he was not, for had they done so the people