The Barren Tree: Matthew 21:18-22
“18) Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. 19) Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He *said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered. 20) Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, “How did the fig tree wither all at once?” 21) And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to 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 say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. 22) And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”” Matthew‬ ‭21‬:‭18‬-‭22‬ ‭
The story of this fig tree was also recorded by Mark. (Mark 11:12-14; 20-26) Mark adds the detail that the disciples discovered the fig tree withered the next morning. The withering happen very quickly.
Fig trees are ripe during the Passover, but the harvest often begins in earnest after the holiday. Jesus had every reason to expect ripe figs on the tree, but it was barren. His prophecy over the tree was powerful and effected an immediate miracle.
Some see this story as an illustration of the fruitless state that Jesus found in Judaism and the temple system. According to Mark, He departed from this tree and shortly entered the temple. He expected to find a house of prayer and a thirst for God, instead He was met by money changers and empty rituals.
They see in the withering of the fig tree what was about to happen to the Old Covenant. It was about to be replaced by the New Covenant that would bear fruit for God.
It is significant that Jesus wanted His Fathers to be a house of prayer and He used the fig tree as an opportunity to teach on faith as it relates to prayer. The absence of faith is what brought the barren condition of the temple system and the Old Covenant. The temple system and it’s works based religion had displaced and obscured God. That which should have produced fruit was barren. Faith had been displaced by works.
I see Jesus using this fig tree to point the disciples to another tree that would produce much fruit. Jesus was about to be crucified on the wood from a tree. The message of the cross mixed with faith always bears fruit. The Lamb of God was about to atone for the sins of humanity. The Holy Spirit was about to be poured out and bear much fruit in the life of every true believer.
Psalm chapter one was about to be ushered into reality. Every born-again believer is like a tree planted by rivers of water that bears fruit in its season. Faith was about to start moving mountains. Jesus has every reason to expect fruit from our lives. Those who abide in Him bear much fruit. (Read John 15:1-17) Notice that Jesus also concluded the story the vine and the branches with teaching on prayer.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global