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The Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel’s Messiah, Part 16: Matthew 21:1-46, by Kevin M. Williams

Later, Paul will take up the cry in Romans 11:17-21:

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you.

No one is immune, Jew or Gentile, if they do not bear fruit keeping with the Spirit.

These were the days leading up to Passover. In Israel, the fig trees were already producing early (albeit immature) fruit—even before they put out leaves. Here was a tree with leaves only, but after Yeshua’s rebuke, it “withered.”

This was not some cheap conjurers’ trick, or a wanton rage from the Messiah. Yeshua did nothing out of selfish need. Everything he did and said had a spiritual application. This was what was at the heart of the disciples question, “How did the fig tree wither at once?”

The tree’s death—because it bore no fruit—may very well have been a lesson on faith and prayer. His answer was “Truly I say to you, if you have faith, and do not doubt, you shall 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 shall happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive”

Does this mean that we, as disciples, can ask for anything we want and if we have faith, we will receive it? Does this mean that we can, at will, curse a tree or move a mountain?

Given the overall context of Yeshua’s ministry, it would seem the answer is, “no.” The fig tree was not bearing fruit for its Master. It was not meeting His need, which as disciples is what we are supposed to be doing—meeting the needs of our Bridegroom as a worthy Bride. We are to produce fruits that satisfy His hunger. Praying to satisfy our own lusts is to twist Yeshua’s intent and to miss the point of the withering fig altogether. Like Him, we are not illusionists displaying our faith as some carnival sideshow. Nor are we empowered to exact revenge on something as insignificant as a tree. Those things are shallow and not at all in keeping with the example. Rather, our prayers and faith are to be used in the service of the King, for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

And when He had come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?” (Matthew 21:23).

Apparently the chief priests did not like his answer the day before. He had already told them that the children crying out, “Hosanna, Son of David” was in harmony with the prophet Isaiah, and indirectly, that He was the long awaited Messiah. No, they had chosen blindness. They had seen the miracles in the temple, that the blind and lame were healed. This was the holy temple mount—the mountain the Bible says was the place of God’s own choosing to establish His name. Their question only proved their lack of vision.

And Jesus answered and said to them, “I will ask you one thing too, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?” And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude; for they all hold John to be a prophet.” And answering Jesus, they said, “We do not know.” He also said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things” (Matthew 21:24-27).

Yeshua’s answer revealed their motivation. They were not interested in the truth. They politically feared the multitudes and the potential loss of their influence. They revealed their true colors and in doing so, revealed that any answer Yeshua would have given them would have fallen on deaf ears.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Winter 2005

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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