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Matthew 21:18-22

Planted for Purpose

  • Samuel Wilson
  • Weekend Messages
  • February 23, 2020

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

Planted for Purpose

Matthew 21:18-22

Illus. What shade?

As we continue in Matthew 21 we see Jesus turn His attention to a barren fig tree. The fig tree was planted for a purpose, but as Jesus comes to pull a fig from the fig tree, it is immediately evident that the tree has no fruit. That which it was created to produce, it was not producing. This tree then becomes an object lesson for Jesus disciples, you, me, and all who would listen.

Read: Matthew 21:18-22

The fig tree had been planted to produce figs specifically, but in coming close to it, there were only leaves and nothing more to see. Purposed to produce fruit, but found without, this tree represented a nation that Jesus was calling out.

Matthew shows us that as Jesus came to Jerusalem He first turned His attention to the temple. The place where worship was to be taking place, but buying and selling was the focus, rather than the proper attention placed on it being God’s dwelling. There was much purpose God had in place, but the religious leadership continually wanted to do things their own way. They were faithless and fruitless, though once planted for a purpose.

As we focus in on the fig tree, there were many lessons for Jesus’ disciples and Israel to see, and this morning as we apply it to our lives personally, we will greater understand the depths of who Jesus intends for us to be. 

I.   Long for More Than Good Looking Leaves

Matthew 21:18-19

  • The day after Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, we see He and His disciples return to Jerusalem.
  • It would have been early in the morning and Jesus was on a two-mile journey from Bethany to Jerusalem.
  • While on His way, He became hungry and saw a lone fig tree. From afar, the prospects of this fig tree providing fruit to eat had great potential. Reason being, it had leaves on it.

Mark 11:13, Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it.

  • Fig trees would commonly grow quite large (20 feet high and 20 feet hide) and could be seen at a distance. Jesus saw the lone tree, filled with leaves and went to find what was supposed to be on it, fruit.
  • The expectation if that fruit would be found. One important characteristic of fig trees, is that they generally produce fruit twice yearly.
  • And the way in which their first fruits appear is unique. Unlike most fruit trees, which produce leaves then fruit, fig trees product fruit first, then leaves.
  • This being the case, if a fig tree has leaves on it, there should also be fruit found. 
  • The tree Jesus comes upon, had some good-looking leaves, but no fruit.

Matthew 21:19, He said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered.

  • What the fig tree represented historically, is important for you and me to see. It also points us toward the message and purpose in what Jesus is trying to teach. Jesus was specifically addressing the appearance of spirituality without substance.
  • What Jesus was giving was an acted-out parable, a situation that pointed to a greater reality. A nation that had the appearance of religion, with leaves on the tree, but no fruit.
  • Throughout scripture, there are times when agricultural symbols represent Israel. One of those symbols is the fig tree.

Deuteronomy 8:7-9, The Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing…

1 Kings 4:25, So Judah and Israel lived in safety, every man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.

  • Throughout the book of Zechariah the Lord promised His people that at the Messiah’s second coming, He would “remove the iniquity of that land in one day” and “every one of you will invite his neighbor to sin under his vine and under his fig tree” (Zech. 3:9-10)
  • Just as the presence of the fig tree was symbol of blessing, its absence was a symbol of judgement and destruction.

Jeremiah 5:15, 17, “Behold, I am bringing a nation against you from afar, O house of Israel,” declares the Lord… “They will devour your harvest and your food; they will devour your sons and your daughters; they will devour your flocks and your herds; they will devour your vines and your fig trees; they will demolish with the sword your fortified cities in which you trust.”

  • The prophet Amos (4:9) declared that the years of failed crops and barren fig trees had been God’s way of trying to get the Jewish people to wake up and repent but they would not.
  • Just as the tree looked good from far but was far from good, the temple Jesus was coming to looked impressive in appearance, but like this tree, was spiritually barren.
  • Prior to Jesus’ ministry beginning, John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus, telling the religious leaders to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Matthew 3:8)

Illus. Depiction of their day.

  • The term Jesus used for religious leaders and the way they operated was “hypocrite” (Mt. 6:2; giving to the poor, 6:5; prayer, 6:16; fasting).
  • The hypocrites were the play actors who would wear a mask on stage and perform, but it was not who they truly were.

Matthew 23:27, Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Illus. How is your battery?

  • The leaves were an indication of what was supposed to be there, but was not.
  1. Be aware of what you bear

Matthew 21:19-20

  • Matthew says at once it withered. Mark tells us that the “fig tree withered from the roots up” (11:20).
  • And while the leaves looked good from far, the tree was far from good, it was not living in light of its purpose, to produce figs.
  • Israel was professing to be devoted to God, but they were far from Him. 

Matthew 15:7-9, You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’

  • Jesus says that Isaiah was prophesying about them in Isaiah 29:13.
  • They were saying and doing all the right things on the surface …But their hearts were far from Him.
  • How quickly we can fall into the same, but it can’t simply be about the way things appear, rather our actions and attitudes must be sincere.
  • The purpose of this particular tree Jesus comes to is found in its name, a “fig tree,” for those in Christ, our purpose is included in our title as well “Christian.”

Illus. Toys ‘R’ Us

Revelation 4:11, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

Isaiah 43:7, Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made.

  • The idea of fruit, which was encouraged by John the Baptist, is always an indication of salvation. It reveals the reality of right relationship with God.
  • The tree we see was a hypocrite, giving the appearance of one thing, but upon inspection, under its mask of leaves, was not functioning as it was supposed to be.

Galatians 5:22-23, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

  • Hebrews 13:25 calls the sacrifice of praise, fruit of lips that give thanks. Colossians 1:5 describes the Gospel going out as fruit, James 3:18 and Philippians 1:11 speak of the fruit of righteousness.
  • On this fig tree, Jesus was looking for fruit, but none was found.

John 15:16

Matthew 7:18, A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.

Matthew 13:23

John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit”

  • Staying connected to the vine is therefore the only way to truly bear fruit.

C.H. Spurgeon: The first Adam came looking for leaves, the last Adam is looking for figs.

  • This picture is important, Adam in his sin, was looking for a way to cover up his nakedness, so he went to the fig tree in Genesis 3:7 and sewed two leaves together.
  • 1 Corinthians 15 calls Jesus the Last Adam, He came looking for fruit.
  • Are you aware of what you bear? Is the longing of your life to bear much fruit, or are you good as long as your tree has leaves?

Leaves being the indication of that which truly is not there, what is on the surface…

  • The distinction between the two is what looks good to man, verses what glorifies God.
  1. Know your fruits indicate your roots
  • Seeing the fig tree withered, the disciples ask an important question, “how did this happen?”
  • And Jesus points them again to the important of faith, and abiding in Him.

Matthew 21:21-22

  • The expression “rooter up of mountains,” was a metaphor commonly used in Jewish literature of a great teacher or spiritual leader.
  • In the Jewish Talmud, great Rabbis are called “rooters up of mountains.” They were those who could solve great problems and seemingly do the impossible.

1 John 5:14, This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

  • Jesus instructed us to pray that way in Matthew 6:10, “His will be done.”
  • Jesus had given what constituted discipleship:

Matthew 16:24, Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.

James 4:3, When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

  • Jesus was not speaking about faith in faith, or faith in oneself. He was speaking about faith in God.
  • When you face mountains in your life, where do you find yourself? What do you dig into? What do you find your life is rooted in?
  • If your faith is rooted in Jesus, trusting and believing, no mountain you face it too large, no valley to low.

Jeremiah 17:7-8

Philippians 2:13, it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Jeremiah 1:5, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.

Jeremiah 29:11, For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Illus. Let Him dig.

Matthew 21:18-22

Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. 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. Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, “How did the fig tree wither all at once?” 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. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”


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