The last post focused on Jesus’ withering of a fig tree on His way into Jerusalem and how it was a sign of the eventual withering of those who reject God’s authority by not bearing fruit where fruit was needed. Today we return to Jesus’ explanation of how the tree withered so fast: “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Matthew 21:21-22)
Jesus does not say “any mountain,” but “this mountain.” Which mountain? Since they were returning to Jerusalem, a city built on a hill, it is likely that He is talking about His purpose in going there. He was about to overthrow the authorities of the world on the cross, including that of the Jewish rulers, but also the Roman Empire. As I wrote in an earlier post: “Only in hindsight do we know what Jesus already knew at the time: in AD 66, Rome would invade and level the city of Jerusalem, including desecrating the temple. In 410 AD, Germanic tribes would sack the city of Rome and eventually overthrow the empire of Pax Romana.”
By causing the fig tree to wither quickly, Jesus showed His disciples that anyone who rejects His authority will inevitably wither. What He demonstrates in a limited way instantaneously, He will fulfill completely eventually, but certainly. Through our faith we bear our own cross rather than blindly following the authorities of the world. If we act in faith, our actions outlast every authority of this world. Thus, our faith moves mountains!
Being “on the right side of history” means doing the right thing in light of eternity, not doing what is popular in the fleeting, present moment or imagining some future opinion poll’s judgement on the present day. The popular view may often seem like the easy way, but the authority of God, which tells us to love Him and love our neighbor in every circumstance, is the only way to bear fruit that lasts. Following God may make us popular, or it may not, but seeking popularity should not be a reason for doing things. Popularity is ok as an outcome, but not as an objective. For the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, seeking popularity initially made them unable to commit to anything, but eventually led them to crucify God Himself.
In my case as a blogger and in many areas of anyone’s life, there are constant temptations to do what is popular. Many of the “followers” of this blog are other blogs asking me to pay for advice about how to get more attention; to improve my “metrics.” Other forms of social media want us to focus on “likes” and other verifications of our popularity. However, only a life lived knowing that God, our Maker and King, knows what is most beneficial for us and fruitful for His people provides the wisdom we need to find true fulfillment. The lesson of the fig tree reminds everyone that a quest for popularity might only lead to a withering of their ability to bear real fruit for eternity.
We close with these two verses:
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” – Isaiah 40:8
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” – Mark 8:35