Read Matthew 21
We see something that we just don’t see much from Jesus. He cursed a fig tree. We see many confrontations from him with the religious hypocrites. We have seen him still the storm. We have been witness to much healing as we have navigated this gospel.
But cursing a tree, that’s something out of the ordinary. Jesus was hungry and walked up to a fig tree. It had leaves but no fruit.
The scripture did not say that Jesus was upset, angry, or disappointed. This is what it said:
“May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.
We like to think about a God who is love, but we should not skip over those scriptures about his wrath. But it did not say Jesus was angry. The tree just did not do what it was made to do—bear fruit. When we miss the mark—we transgress—wrath is the penalty. We stand guilty of sin and deserve wrath and punishment and death.
We also know that God desires none to perish. He desires all to turn away from a sinful world and come to him. Forgiveness and mercy are how we know God. We deserve punishment and death. We receive mercy and favor and life.
But we are expected to produce fruit. This was just a single tree and not the tree on which all theology is based. It was just a tree, but to us it should be a reminder that we disappoint God when we do not produce fruit for the body of Christ, when our lives do not produce fruit to the glory of God.
The disciples were, of course, dumbfounded. They had been a part of feeding multitudes with very little food. They had seen Jesus heal so many people. They had seen Jesus walk on water and still the storm, but causing this fig tree to wither was something else, indeed. They were amazed.
They asked, “How did you do that?”
Jesus used what he did to the tree to talk about faith once again. There was not mustard seed analogy here but Jesus said if you have faith and do not doubt, you could do this as well.
If you have faith and do not doubt, you can command a mountain to pick itself up and launch itself into the sea.
I believe that Jesus was being very literal. He frames what is impossible without God and then tells us with God it is possible. With faith, you can move a mountain, but I don’t think Jesus wants a world full of dead fig trees and an ocean full of mountains. Sea levels are rising enough without throwing in a few mountain ranges.
Jesus is talking about having real faith—faith that can impact physical things. What things should we try to impact with our faith?
Let’s try these. Cancer, COVID, heart disease, pneumonia, addiction, and so many more. If we pray and do not doubt, we should expect God to act. Sometimes we don’t know what is best but we are to have faith that God does.
We could hold mountain-moving practice or we could do things that matter in our age—healing, confronting evil, being God’s love, being merciful, and more.
Or, we could try to move a mountain. But if we seek to move a mountain to see if we have faith, then we have already doubted.
Let’s have faith and not doubt and use this faith given to each of us for the glory of God.