Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

More on the Fig Tree (Matthew 21:18-22)

In yesterday’s reading, we saw that Jesus had approached the fig tree before it was the time when the fruit was mature. The stages in its development were (1) when the figs could be eaten but they did not taste good at that stage, (2) there would be leaves, and (3) the mature figs. Jesus knew that it was not yet the time for mature figs, but he expected that there would be figs in their initial stages. Of course, this expectation is a reminder of the reality of his humanity.

The tree illustrated the problem with religious practices in Israel – they were like the leaves (good to look at) but without figs (no reality in their religion). Given that the Saviour approached the tree long before the mature fruit was due, his action points to him not expecting perfect spiritual activity from Israel, but genuine spiritual activity. Sanctification does not produce perfect fruit in our lives, but it does produce genuine spirituality, with prayer a crucial feature of it.

Jesus informed his disciples that when a person has faith in him he or she will have an effective prayer life. He said that they would be able to remove a mountain by prayer. Obviously, he was not suggesting that they by their prayers should aim to readjust the physical landscape. But did he have in mind a particular mountain when he spoke?

It is possible that Jesus was pointing to a location in the city where earthly power was located, whether in its religious sense (the temple) or in its political sense (the Roman empire), both of which were enemies to the growth of the kingdom of Jesus. How would the members of his kingdom gain the victory over such strong opponents? Not by getting involved in some form of political deliverance, as most of the crowd who had welcomed him to the city had hoped, but by believing prayer to God to bring about the removal of such mountains.