THE MYSTERY OF THE CURSED FIG TREE
|10: And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?
11: And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.
12: And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,
13: And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
14: And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.
15: And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased,
16: And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?
17: And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.
18: Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.
19: And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.
20: And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!
21: Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.
22: And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.
|11: And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.
12: And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry:
13: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.
14: And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.
15: And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;
16: And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.
17: And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.
18: And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.
19: And when even was come, he went out of the city.
20: And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.
21: And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.
22: And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.
23: For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.
24: Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.
Once again, Bible critics would point us to this glaring contradiction in the Holy Bible. The two accounts on the cursing of the fig tree do not match. One version shows the curse was pronounced one day before the other. So which one is correct, Bible critics would demand?
Apparently the many so called contradictions in Bible passages are nothing new under the sun. The mystery of the cursing of the fig tree by the Lord Jesus Christ is nothing mysterious at all if we approach the Holy Scriptures with reverence and with a Bible believing heart asking God to grant us wisdom to understand His pure and inspired words of life. According to Matthew 21:10-22 and Mark 11:11-24, definitely there is this contradiction if we are looking for contradictions when we read the Bible with such an attitude. We shall consider some accounts of other events from different writers and make a comparison before concluding whether the two passages at hand are indeed contradictory in every sense of the word.
When Jesus came sitting upon an ass, did He enter into Jerusalem and the temple to cast out those who polluted the temple according to Matthew 21:12 or did He leave and come back again the next day as recorded by Mark 11:11? So there was one day unaccounted for in the two passages. Based on Luke’s account, there was no record of Jesus overturning tables and casting people out of the temple when He came sitting upon the colt in Luke 19:32-40. Likewise, John did not tell us anything about Jesus chasing people out of the temple though he also briefly mentioned about the Lord riding an ass’s colt in John 12:12-19.
So according to Mark, Jesus cursed the fig tree a day before and the effect was observed the following day while Matthew gave the account that Jesus cursed the fig tree on the second day which took effect immediately. Do we reckon that there are two different accounts based on the two passages? Let us consider how Matthew and Mark often gave slightly different versions of the same event that took place.
In Mark 5:1-17, we are told there was only one maniac in the country of the Gadarenes while according to Matthew 8:28-34, we are informed of two possessed with devils. So who is right? Of course none was wrong if you are a Bible believer because one account described the details of one of them while the other reported two maniacs. Who says both accounts must report the two persons involved? Even the different newspapers of our days do not report the same incident exactly the same way with exactly the same details and we do not complain that they contradict each other in their reporting! The world gives newspaper reporters journalistic freedom but when Bible critics deal with the Holy Scriptures, they exercise double standards!
Again according to Mark 10:46, Mark told us there was one blind man but Matthew again reported two blind men in Matt 20:30. Is there a contradiction again? Unless you are a Bible critic instead of a Bible believer, you will conclude that here is another contradiction! Consider one more illustration before summing up this apparent contradiction on the cursing of the fig tree.
And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them. (Mark 14:69)
And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. (Matt 26:71)
And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not. (Luke 22:58)
And Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. They said therefore unto him, Art not thou also one of his disciples? He denied it, and said, I am not. (John 18:25)
So actually who was asking Peter? Was it a maid according to Mark and Matthew or was it a man based on Luke’s account? But we have John confirming for us they were asking Peter, which included both a man and a maid! How the Holy Scriptures clear up any so called contradictions if we are looking to God with Bible believing faith to reveal to us spiritual truths!
Finally, let us consider how Matthew often provided summary of events, which are not necessarily in chronological order.
Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God. (Matt 27:50-54)
Here we see Matthew summarizing several events that occurred from the death of Christ to His subsequent resurrection and then he went back to describe the burial of the Lord’s body by Joseph and the other women in the following verses. Therefore, based on Matthew’s style of reporting, we may conclude that the cursing of the fig tree recorded by him was a summary instead of a chronological sequence of events.
Then what can we learn from the cursing of the fig tree when it was not yet time for the figs? An unsaved colleague of mine challenged me with this question some 18 years ago when I was still a very young Christian. Actually, the Lord had given a parable in Luke Chapter 13 on the fig tree.
He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down. (Luke 13:6-9)
From the account here, the Lord had waited patiently for three years for the fig tree, which is a type of Israel to bear fruit but He found none during His earthly ministry. It was not that the time was not yet for the fig tree to bear fruits but the tree had consistently refused to bring forth fruits meet for repentance as a nation and hence the curse was issued. This also shows us that the fields are indeed white unto harvest but the labourers are few. As such, we better, Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. (2 Tim 4:2) For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; searching for contradictions in the Holy Bible instead of studying the Bible and rightly dividing the words of truth. This time has indeed come for many years now!