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Passion Week

The Fig Tree Withers


Matthew 21:18-22
Mark 11:12-14

Key Differences

Matthew records background on the story while Mark picks up after Jesus had actually cursed the tree. 

While Matthew says that the tree immediately withered, apparently the disciples did not notice it until the following day when they passed the tree again.  There are two possible explanations for this.  The tree may have immediately withered but it went unnoticed until the next day.  Or the tree wilted overnight, making it no less miraculous and still seemingly immediate as a tree would not normally wither so quickly.  Either way does not negate the miracle that takes place.

Additional Commentary

Jesus' cursing of the fig tree seems extreme over the absence of fruit but the tree is symbolic of Israel.  When a tree's leaves are out, one expects to find figs on the tree.  But the fig tree does not bear fruit even though it has the appearance of bearing fruit.

Israel looked like it should be bearing fruit as well.  There was an appearance of righteousness but none was actually there.  What happened to the fig tree was a warning for Israel.  It is not enough to look healthy and fruit producing, one must actually produce the promised fruit.  Israel was not and would be punished for it.

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