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CVII.

Finding the Fig-Tree Withered.

(Road from Bethany to Jerusalem, Tuesday, April 4, a.d. 30.)

A Matt. XXI. 20–22; B Mark XI. 19–25; C Luke XXI. 37, 38.

c 37 And every day he was teaching in the temple [he was there Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, but he seems to have spent Wednesday and Thursday in Bethany]; and every night { b evening} he went forth out out of the city. c and lodged in the mount that is called Olivet. [As Bethany was on the Mount of Olives, this statement leaves us free to suppose that he spent his nights there, but it is not likely that he retired to any one house or place continuously, for had he done so the rulers could easily have ascertained his whereabouts and arrested him.] 38 And all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, to hear him. [The enthusiasm of the triumphal entry did not die out in a day: Jesus was still the center of observation.] b 20 And as they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away from the roots. [It was completely withered—dead root and branch. We have observed before, p. 578, that one coming into Jerusalem from Bethany is apt to come down the steep side of Olivet, and that one returning to Bethany is apt to take the easier grade, though longer way, around the south end of the mountain. This fig-tree was apparently on this short road, and was sentenced Monday morning. The disciples, returning by the other or longer road to Bethany or its vicinity, did not see the tree Monday evening, but they saw it Tuesday morning, when they again came back by the short 584road. From these facts argue a method of coming and going, from which it may be fairly inferred that Jesus, on the day of his triumphal entry, approached Jerusalem by the short road, though Stanley, Edersheim, and many others, think he came in over the long road.] a 20 When the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How did the fig tree immediately wither away? [Jesus had simply condemned it to fruitlessness, but his condemnation involved it in an evil which it justly deserved. The judgment of God reveals; and that which is dead in fact is made dead in appearance also.] b 21 And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Rabbi, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst [devotedst to death] is withered away. [Peter is surprised both at the suddenness and at the fullness of the judgment. Since the miracles of Jesus, heretofore, had been only those of mercy, Peter boldly invited the Lord to discuss this miracle, hoping for more light on its meaning.] 22 And Jesus answering saith { a answered and said} unto them, b Have faith in God. 23 Verily I say unto you, a If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do what is done to the fig tree, but even if ye { b whosoever} shall say unto this mountain [Olivet], Be thou taken up and cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that what he saith cometh to pass; he shall have it. a it shall be done. 22 And b 24 Therefore I say unto you, All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, { a ye shall ask in prayer,} b believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. { a believing, ye shall receive.} [Jesus here lays down the broad general rule in the application of which we must be guided by other Scriptures. The rule is, indeed, liberal and gracious, and the limitations are just and reasonable. We must not expect to obtain that which it is unlawful for us to desire (Jas. iv. 2, 3), or which it is unwise for us to seek (II. Cor. xii. 7–9), nor must we selfishly run counter to the will of God ( Luke xxii. 42; I. John v. 14, 15), nor must we expect that God shall perform a miracle for us, for miracles have ceased—in short, we 585must pray to God in full remembrance of the relationship between us, we must consider that he is the Ruler and we his subjects, and are not to think for one moment that by faith we can alter this eternal, unchangeable relation. The disciples whom Jesus addressed were very soon to enter upon a task which would seem to them as difficult as the removal of mountains. The license and immorality of paganism, and the bigotry and prejudice of Judaism, would seem insurmountable obstacles in their pathway to success. They needed to be assured that the power of faith was superior to all these adverse forces, and that the judgments of God could accomplish in a moment changes which apparently could not be wrought out in the tedious course of years. As we to-day look back upon this promise of Christ we can see that the mountains then standing have, indeed, been removed; and that which seemed vigorous and flourishing has been blasted in a day.] b 25 And whensoever ye stand [a customary attitude—Luke xviii. 13] praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any one; that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. [Forgiveness has already been enjoined (see pp. 253, 254). Here our Lord emphasizes the need of forgiveness because he had just performed a miracle of judgment, and he wished his disciples to understand that they must not exercise their miraculous gifts with a vengeful, unforgiving spirit. They must suffer evil and not retaliate with miracles of judgment.] 586

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