Matthew 21:18-22 Part 2

However incomplete it is, and however perverted it may be among some groups, every year the Church celebrates the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word.  And it’s only appropriate, as we begin this morning, that we say some things about that.  After all, this is Passover week in the text.

And Jesus has “come in” to God’s Mount Zion; and He has “dried up” the fig tree!  And the disciples are in “wonder” about how it is and why it is that the tree is dried up at its very root!  That’s verse twenty, and we’ll come back to it shortly.

But the apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthian Church (chapter one, verse twenty-three), put it very succinctly when he said, speaking of the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that it was “foolishness” to the Gentiles and an occasion of “skandala” to the Jews (skandala meaning an occasion of being snared and crushed) (not stumbling).

The word “foolishness” here (with regard to the Gospel as seen by the Gentiles) comes from the same word as “insipid” which Jesus uses with regard to the salt which has lost its savor.  In other words it has no substance – it is nothing.  In the minds of Greek/Gentile unbelievers the thought of an incarnation (God becoming man) and a resurrection from death of an incarnate God is simply nothing!  It is “folly”; or emptiness; it is foolishness.  In comparison to the way they “know” that the world operates, the very idea of a god becoming a man, and being resurrected after being crucified, is an absurdity!

In addition, way in the background of this word “foolishness” is a kind of a “stuporous” effect such as that which might happen at night when your headlights shine directly in the eyes of an animal; and it is mesmerized and it won’t move.  Or if an animal is attacked by another one – sometimes it just lies there until it’s killed.  In other words there’s just no ability to react at all!

So in the same way, the Gospel, and the preaching of the Gospel of the Incarnate Word of God and His resurrection from death, leaves the pagan Gentile in a kind of a dull-witted stupor.  The things being said are just passing right by with no effect at all. Or he’s just lying there being attacked, and he doesn’t even know it!

And so we see that there is, among pagan, Greek, Gentiles, a philosophical abhorrence to the Gospel (it’s foolishness), or there is this stone-dead, unconscious paralysis with regard to it.

And therefore the apostle Paul, and the others, were many times called “fools”, or foolish, for preaching these things which are just empty absurdities.  It just could not happen!

And the reason for that was that in Greek philosophy an incarnation was impossible.  It was anathema because the idea of a God was that, whoever and whatever he or she (or it) was, he was far removed from the universe.  No “god” would have anything to do with matter and still remain a god!  So the very idea that God would become man (who is physical), and then suffer death and be resurrected – that was embarrassing!  No one with any intellect at all, who wanted to remain respectable, could possibly believe something that absurd!

Now, while I’m right here, let me give you the two main syncretizations between Greek philosophy and Christianity.  This is still very, very important to us as Christians, because they’re both still here big time!

Gnosticism agreed with the Greek philosophers that God was far removed from anything physical, because, they said, all matter was evil!  But that there were “manifestations” of God, or “emanations” from God which were able to be involved with physical things.  These were “inferior” beings, or gods, who accounted for the creation and for spiritual things and appearances in the world.  The Gnostics also agreed with the philosophers that God could not become man; so those Gnostics who claimed to be Christians believed that Jesus Christ was not God incarnate – but a “manifestation” of God!  He was a so-called “demi-urge” which had entered into the world; and so therefore He was very profitable to those who were religious.

On the other hand, and also agreeing with the Greek philosophers, were the mystics who believed that man himself must transcend, through many levels of the physical universe, and mostly by self-hypnotic meditation, into a higher and higher spiritual realm.  The farther he left the physical realm (which was evil), the more spiritual he became!

This of course left man with the ability to use the physical world in any way he wished, because it didn’t matter anyway – everything physical was evil!  One thing was no more evil than another!  To the mystic, as well as the Gnostic, the incarnation and resurrection of God-man was foolishness; but many mystics syncretized Greek philosophy and Christianity by claiming that Jesus Christ was very special because he had truly entered into the highest spiritual realm.  He, in their opinion, was the greatest prophet of them all, because He, more than them all, had “transcended’ the physical universe!

So of the two main syncretizations of Christianity and Greek philosophy, one found a way for God to emanate into the creation; and the other found a way for man to leave – transcend – the physical realm and enter the spiritual!

So then, according to Paul, Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, Who was crucified and rose again the third day, was foolishness to the Greeks.  And He was the One upon Whom the Jews were ensnared and crushed (the meaning of the word “skandala”)!

Today, Jews, for the most part, are still in that state of being snared and crushed on the Rock which is Christ.  And although the Kingdom of our Lord is widespread into every nation and tongue and tribe, there are still many, many Gentiles in the nations (still thinking by way of Greek philosophy) who look upon the crucifixion and resurrection of the Word of God Incarnate as “foolishness”.

And speaking of today, some recently have even said that the present time in which we live is singularly godless”; but that isn’t true.  The present “aion”, or age, is the age of salvation.  This is the time of Christ’s kingdom.  And the process of putting His enemies under His feet is continuing.

There have been many other periods of time during the two thousand year history of this age which looked at least as distressing as far as the Church was concerned.  But the King continues to bring the nations into submission.  He hasn’t been deterred one minute from subduing His inheritance.

Now, if we were to look, with narrow vision, at our own time – refusing to view the Kingdom history as a whole – then we might become discouraged.  Because the Greek/Gentile philosophy is thrashing about in a resurgence against the “foolishness’ of the Gospel!

In rejection of the Incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection of God-man – Jesus Christ – as pure “folly”, the world’s condition is now being explained in scientific terms.  Instead of being in sin against God, the problem with human nature has to be seen as “dysfunction” – an aberration from the norm!  There is no dead, Adamic humanity for which God-man entered into the world to save! – it is a medical/scientific/social problem!  The Greek mind says that these are all real, physical problems, having to do with matter.  The world!  And it is foolishness to think that some “God-man, resurrected from the dead”, could be the answer to those problems!

Hence, in our own country, a government mandated medical plan designed to deal with all of the dysfunctions of the population, illiteracy, crime, disease, substance abuse, broken families, joblessness, environmental issues, child abuse, weapons – everything is now seen as a scientific/medial problem, now to be addressed by a  massive, overarching medical plan!  It’s designed to expand and to cover every human problem!

And even the Church has begun to view sinful, dead, human nature as “dysfunctional”, and is approaching the problem with science – psychological counseling!  The Church is slowly, but surely, placing itself under the same mantel!  In effect, it is agreeing with the pagan, Greek, Gentile mind-set that the human race is not dead in its sin and condemned by God; but these are only aberrations from “the norm” which can be addressed in scientific/medical terms!  In other words, there is no God-man Who arose from the dead in order that cursed humanity might be rebirthed from its deadness!

But we need to be assured that the One Who has arisen and ascended to the right hand of God will not allow His inheritance to “save itself” by erecting new towers of Babel!  Many times men have gathered themselves against God and His Messiah/King; but the “foolishness” of the Gospel has always been victorious.  And it will be again, and again – until the earth is “covered with the knowledge of God as the water covers the sea.”

As the disciples of Jesus approached Him and the “dried up” fig tree, they did so in purely scientific terms.  The tree was dried up by necessity!  Its core of life was gone.  It was inevitably doomed – from its very life source!  It was stricken; its life was removed.  And it happened quickly, according to all the Gospel sources.

Last time we saw that, in the Scriptures, the fig tree was one of the symbols of the lush covenant blessings of God upon His people.  A symbol of the covenant people themselves!  But this one tree, very early in the Spring, had hypocritically put out its leaves – signaling a full tree of fruit!  But there was none.

The focal point of the whole event is the pretense of the nation of Israel.  It claimed the blessings of God and His covenant, but, in reality, it was a hypocrite!  And the very source of its life was about to be removed.  “Dried up.”

But the disciples looked at the tree in wonder.  And they asked Jesus how come the tree’s life had gone out of it!  They saw nothing of the Incarnate Word (Who had already, a number of times, spoken of His suffering and death and resurrection), Who would forthwith terminate the very existence of the Old Covenant nation of Israel!  Their minds were locked in to the physical aspects of the tree and why it died, and they wouldn’t see the prophetic Word of God Incarnate; they didn’t perceive that Israel was about to cease to exist; they didn’t understand that Jesus Christ (God-man) would rise up out of death to give life to dead humanity!  They wanted to know why that fig tree dried up!

And Jesus answered them in a way that they certainly didn’t expect.


“Amen I say to you, if you have faith and not be divided, you shall do not only this of the fig tree, but if you should say to this mountain, ‘be lifted up and be thrust into the sea,’ they shall be done.  And all whatever you may ask in prayer, faithing, you shall receive.”  (verse twenty-one)


Now, taken out of context, that would be an awfully difficult statement to understand, wouldn’t it?  And it’s really been butchered – by present-day Gnostics and mystics alike!

Let’s take the basic premise first – that Israel is about to be cut off from the Covenant and be destroyed.  Remember, that’s the focus of the whole incident!  Now let’s take the two symbols of Israel (which run through the whole length of the Scriptures).  The fig tree – symbolizing the covenant blessings of God; and the mountain, which is analogous of the nation itself where God had chosen to manifest His glory.

Both of these symbols of the nation of Israel had been established by God in His revealed Word; and both of them had been prophesied to be removed by God!  The fig tree was prophesied, as we saw last time, to be dried up; and the mountain was prophesied to be thrust, burning, into the sea.  (And the apostle John actually saw that happening, in the heavens, as the Revelation was given to him.)  God has already said that these things would take place!

So it’s not as if Jesus was telling His disciples that if they really believed hard enough, and didn’t doubt that they could do it, they could actually go around cursing fig trees and removing mountains!

But the Church has listened to so many perverted preachers who have taken the words out of context, that, just like the Gnostics of old, they now think that it’s possible that man, transcending his own limitations, can obtain such strength of faith that he can actually move mountains and dry up fig trees!  And according to them, the only reason those things are not being done today is that there is such a spirit of delusion in the world, no man is able to rise to that strength of faith!  That’s just like the Jews, who are looking among themselves for the messiah who can do those things!

But Jesus isn’t giving the disciples carte blanche to kill trees and throw mountains into the ocean!  He’s speaking of the nation of Israel!  These things are prophesied of this nation.  And it is this fig tree, and it is this mountain!  The apostles will preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and their preaching and their prayers will be the intermediate cause of these prophesied things to happen to this nation!  Because God said it!  Not because their faith is strong enough – but because it had been spoken by God!

Jesus said “if you have faith,’ “if you possess faith.”  He did not say, “if your faith is strong enough….”  “If you have faith and not be divided!”  What does “divided” mean?  It means doubleminded!  It comes from the root word to judge between; and it means one who takes the Word of God along with the other options, and he evaluates the Truth in comparison to the other possibilities.  That’s a divided mind!

This has nothing to do with “doubt”, as the other versions translate it.  Doubt, at least in today’s fundamentalist jargon, would be a personal failure to have an “inner peace” with regard to God’s will in one’s life.  But that’s not what the text says!

This is not doubt!  Job, for example, was not a doubter.  He knew who God was, and he knew what God said.  But he didn’t want God to be what He was, and he didn’t want God to say what He said!  And he fought against it.  Job was a fighter – not a doubter.

And that’s what Jesus is saying here to His disciples with regard to this mountain; “if you have faith….”  If you possess the gift of God called “faith”; and if you do not fight against God’s revelation concerning the destruction of Israel, then you the apostles of Christ, will be the instruments through whom God will “dry up” the covenantal blessings and cast this perverted nation, burning, into the depths of the sea!

Please remember that Jesus’ disciples did not anticipate these things happening – they did not want them to happen!  They were fighting against it!  Peter had already declared once that these things were not going to happen to Jesus!  Their hopes were for the renewal of Israel under God’s Messiah – for the Mountain of God to once again be supreme in all the world!  And they even hoped for, and they all lobbied for, their own powerful positions in His administration!  Right then they were double-minded men who possessed no faith!

But after the resurrection of Christ, the apostles would preach the Gospel and pray and give praise to God.  They would possess faith; and they would not fight against God’s revealed Word with regard to Israel.

And whatsoever they would ask, faithing, they would receive.  Whatsoever they would ask, faithing…!!  It’s a verb!  Faithing is knowing and doing what God said.  There is no faith if there’s no “doing”; and there is no faith if God hasn’t said it.  There’s no such thing as “faith” if God hasn’t said it.  One can’t have faith in something God hasn’t said!

So “whatever you should ask, faithing…” means that if God has said it, and you pray for it, you’ll receive it!  If you ask in prayer for the “drying up” of the covenant blessings of God upon Israel, you will receive it; if you ask for the destruction of Mt. Zion – this perverted, adulterous, idolatrous nation, you will receive it; if you ask for the nations and tribes and tongues of the world, you will receive them – God said it!

Now, as we look back on all of that from today, we have a full Revelation, don’t we? – from Genesis to the Revelation of St. John.  Ad we also have a history of that great event at the end of the age, which John foresaw – the dissolution of the Covenant relationship with Israel, and her destruction in 70 AD and the preservation of God’s Covenantal remnant.  And we also have the history of the Church – a mere snap-of-the-finger two thousand years during which the apostolic foundation has been laid in every nation on earth.

And we know that the “loosing” from the bondage of alien captivity will continue until Christ has subdued all His enemies.  So have Faith, and don’t be divided – don’t fight against that.  God said it!

And all the other things that He has promised us who are rebirthed into His humanity.  You don’t need to evaluate the other possibilities.  Don’t be double-minded.  God said it!  And so whatever you ask in prayer, faithing (knowing and doing what God said) you will receive it.