Matthew 21:18-21 (Part 2) – What If We Lived Like Heaven Really Was Far Better Than This Place?

Posted: February 28, 2016 in 40-Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 21:18-21 (Part 2)

Jesus Curses a Fig Tree


Yesterday, we talked about the fruits of the spirit and genuine Christianity. Today, let us see where that can lead as we look specifically at the last two verses of this passage. The passage reminds me of football practices when I was a teenager and younger. Those summer football practices were brutal. Back in those days, we did not have the concerns about people getting too hot and about heat stroke and such. Coaches would just push hard, really hard. Wind sprints. Six inches. More wind sprints. The exercises at the beginning and ending of practice were dreaded. The actual football practice where we would run plays and work on stuff for the games was easy compared to that. There were days when you thought you were going to die. Lungs heaving for air as if we were on a planet with little or no atmosphere. Thirst like a man crawling through the Sahara and finding an oasis. But at the end of the day, and practice was over. We realized that we had survived for another day. There was satisfaction walking about to the locker room with sore muscles and finally being able to breath normally again knowing that you had done what you thought earlier that was not possible. That you would survive the practice. When you lungs ache and convulse because of wind sprints and the coach yelling at you for being too slow, you don’t think you are going to make it. But now at the tail end of practice, you are walking back to the locker to get back into your street clothes, and there is this sense of satisfaction that overwhelms you. You did it. You made it through. Well, Jesus speaks to having the faith to do what seems impossible in this passage. Let’s read the passage once again:


18 Early in the morning as he was on his way back into the city, he was hungry. 19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.


20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.


21 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”



Jesus was a master storyteller. He was able to take current situations that were well-known to His first century listeners and weave universal truth about faith and the kingdom of God into them. He would take these grand concepts and make them understandable to his listeners by using illustrations that they understood. In vv. 20-22, we 21st century readers might not catch the illustration about moving mountains but the disciples sure would have. Where they were at the time of this passage, they could see the palace built by Herod the Great.


Herod the Great is best known to us for his attempt to assassinate the newborn Messiah, and while it was true he was brutal and paranoid and his reign was filled with murders of his rivals, he was also a genius builder. He was responsible for an astounding man-made harbor at Caesarea Maritima, the mind-boggling desert fortress of Masada, and the magnificent Temple mount. Around 37 BC, his sights turned to the desert for a building site once again. He wanted to build a fortress palace there that could be seen from Jerusalem and the surrounding areas so that the Jews never forgot he was always watching. He also wanted to be sure it was the absolutely tallest thing in the surrounding landscape. So, he narrowed his building site down to two hills (small mountains) which were near each other. Then, he simply used forced labor to pare the top off one to add to the top of the other to make it bigger. One pail full of dirt and rocks at a time. He literally moved a mountain. Then, he built a luxurious conical fortress on top of his new lofty perch. There was a swimming pool at the foot of his desert palace which was large enough to sail small boats. If you go to the ruins today, you can gaze in wonder at the domed ceiling of his bath house. Herod loved this home so much he left orders to be buried there. He named the palace after himself, of course. He called it Herodium. Many of Herod’s contemporaries said it could not be done. But he did it. He literally moved a mountain, but it was a painstaking and long process. It was years of hard work and planning involved. Jesus was saying that if we have faith we could make the mountain jump into the see with far less effort. Jesus spoke in hyperbole a lot to grab people’s attention so that He could make a point about the kingdom of heaven that they would remember.


Jesus used this illustration with reference to Herod’s literal moving of a mountain to illustrate what a life of genuine faith can lead to. Jesus was not speaking about faith in faith or faith in oneself, both of which foolish and unscriptural ideas are popular today. He was speaking about faith in the true God and in God alone, not faith in one’s dreams, aspirations, or ideas of what he thinks ought to be. “You ask and do not receive,” James warns, “because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). “This is the confidence which we have before Him,” John says, “that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14). Mountain-moving faith is unselfish, undoubting, and unqualified confidence in God. It is believing in God’s truth and God’s power while seeking to do God’s will.


Genuine faith leads to the fruits of the Spirit as we said yesterday, but it also leads to humble and full dependence on God. We actually desire what He desires. We look at the world through His eyes. A genuine Christian wants what God wants. Seeks to know what God wants. A genuine Christian is all-in all the time. A genuine Christian obeys God. A genuine Christian obeys God’s Word not because we are robots but rather because we love our Lord God! We trust Him completely. We know that He will provide for us and keep and we know that even if we die seeking what He seeks that we will go to a far better place.


Think about that kind of faith. What if we had that kind of faith where we believe that when it’s our time to go it is because God willed it and He will take us to a far better place. What if we lived our lives like we were going to heaven rather than fearing death? How much change could we wrought in a dying and sin-filled world if we were less worried about preservation of our lives and keeping our stuff and more worried about pleasing God and doing His will. How much could we do? Nothing would be impossible to solve if genuine Christians had the faith that could move mountains. How much fruit could we bear if we had an ever-growing and ever-increasing faith in the power of God and an ever-increasing belief that we are going to a far better place than this. What abandon could we live our lives with if we acting as if what was coming next was actually far better than this plain of existence that we know. How many social ills could we address such as poverty, sex trafficking, slavery, oppression, and so on if we lived with abandon having full faith that God will deliver us to a higher place even if it is death. Can’t we regain the abandon of the first century Christians. The thought telling people of this Jesus Christ was more important than their earthly comforts and were willing to do anything to serve the Lord because at the end of the road heaven awaited. What if we lived like heaven was real? I know we talk about it but do we have the faith in that we are willing to do anything to serve the Lord? How real is your heaven? How much do you trust the Lord? Do you trust that with God anything is possible even the impossible?


That’s the kind of faith that I want to have. I want to be that guys who lives with just this wild and unbounding faith in God. Let’s take the limits off our faith. If we are in love with God, we are going to want what He wants. If we are in love with God, we are going to exhibit godly fruit. If we are in love with God, we are going to care about the things He cares about. We will be moved to move mountains. He will call us to do that which we think is impossible. He will call us to do things that only true faith in Him will allow us to do. He will teach us true faith where we know that it was only through Him that we accomplished the mountain moving. That’s the place I wanna be. Having so much faith in Him that I am seen as crazy in my faith. Believing that God can do the impossible. Believing that I can trust that my eternal home is far better than this so it sets me on fire to change this world even if it cost me my life. That’s the kind of faith that I want to have as I continue to grow and mature in Christ. Don’t you?


Amen and Amen.

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