18 Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away. 20 And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?” 21 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, 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 also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. 22 And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
The section running from 21:18 to 22:46 deals with rejection of the Messiah by the nation Israel. This paragraph is about the symbolic act of placing a curse on the nation Israel because she rejected Messianic claims. Jesus’ curse of the fig tree represents a nation deep in religion but negative toward the Messiah.
From Mark we know that the curse of the fig tree occurred over two successive days.
Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry.
After spending the night in the town of Bethany, Jesus returned to Jerusalem in the morning.
And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing [emphatic] on it but leaves,
Fig trees in Israel produced an edible fig before the leaves appeared; therefore, Jesus calculated this tree barren. This was not the “season for figs” (Mk 11:13); nevertheless, if the tree produced leaves, it should have produced figs.
and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away.
Leaves should have indicated the presence of fruit on a fig tree. Surprisingly, Jesus cursed the tree because it was barren. The curse of this fig tree had nothing to do with His hunger but was a symbol of curse on Israel for its rejection of Him as Messiah. Judgment came on Israel by the fall of Jerusalem under the Romans in A.D. 70.
The word “immediately” means that the tree died when Jesus made the pronouncement, but it did not wither until the next day (Mk 11:20).
And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon [emphatic]?”
The disciples were amazed at the quick withering away of the fig tree. They missed the point about the barrenness of Israel’s capacity to accept the Messiah.
So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly [important statement], 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 also if you say to this mountain [Mount of Olives], ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done.
Jesus responded to the disciples’ amazement at the quick withering of the fig tree by a statement on the importance of faith. By faith we can do what is otherwise impossible. However, Jesus did not recommend placing faith in faith itself, but in the object of faith. Jesus spoke figuratively here. All miracles relate to the will of God. God grants response to faith according to His will. Jesus never validated magical powers. This challenge to faith was His promise to give miraculous powers to the apostles in their work of presenting the credentials of the Messiah. The apostles of the church per se did not come till later. This crowd knew nothing of the church.
And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
This verse is not an unqualified promise to answer any prayer at any time. God always answers prayer according to His will. God never answers prayer that is selfish.
Trust in God’s promises can have amazing consequences.
Religion as a complete system is satanic. It is the main method whereby the devil deceives the masses. Religion without reality is deadly.
Genuine faith trusts in the extant promises of God. This kind of faith always honors God because it trusts God to do what He promises. Even little faith can accomplish great results. Doubt debilitates the Christian walk. If in prayer we believe that God will do what He promised He would do, He will work through us.