Matthew 21:18
Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.
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(18) In the morning.—The word implies “daybreak,” probably about 5 A.M. This was the usual Jewish time for the first food of the day. If we may infer from Luke 21:37, John 18:1, that the greater part of the night had been spent either in solitary prayer or in converse with the disciples, we have an explanation of the exhaustion which sought food wherever there might seem even a chance of finding it.

Matthew 21:18-22. In the morning, as he returned, he hungered — For, being a man, he was subject to all the innocent infirmities of our nature, and he had come out from Bethany early without eating any thing: And when he saw a fig-tree (Gr. συκην μιαν, a single fig-tree) in the way — Having a fine spread of leaves upon it, and therefore appearing to be one of the earlier kind; he came to it — In expectation of finding figs thereon, for the season of gathering them was not yet come, Mark 11:12; and found nothing but leaves only — By which it plainly appeared that, though it looked so beautiful, it was a barren tree. Thus Christ’s just expectations from flourishing professors are often disappointed; he comes to many seeking fruit, and finds leaves only: they have a name to live, but are dead. And he said, Let no fruit grow on thee for ever — As thou art now fruitless, continue always so. Thus the sin of hypocrites and unfruitful professors is made their punishment; they would not bring forth the fruits of righteousness, and therefore they shall not bring them forth. And presently the fig-tree withered away — That is, began to wither away. This, like many other of our Lord’s actions, was emblematical. It signified that the curse of God would thus wither and destroy the Jewish nation, which he had before compared to a barren fig-tree; Luke 13:6-9. And when the disciples saw it — As they went by the next day, Mark 11:20, they marvelled, saying, How soon, &c. — They were astonished to see it withered down to the roots in the space of one day. Jesus answered, If ye have faith, and doubt not — So the same word διακρινομαι is rendered James 1:6, and so it doubtless frequently signifies; but Dr. Whitby proposes rendering it here, do not discriminate, or put a difference: as if our Lord had said, “If you have such a faith as puts no difference between things you can, and things you cannot do, but makes you fully persuaded you can do any thing which tends to the glory of God, and is requisite for the promotion of the Christian faith, you shall be able to perform the most difficult things; which is the meaning of the phrase, to remove mountains.” Thus we learn that one great end of our Lord in this miracle was, to confirm and increase the faith of his disciples: another was, to warn them against unfruitfulness. And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer — All things that God in his word authorizes you to ask, as being for your real profit, or that of others, and for God’s glory, and therefore according to his will, 1 John 5:14; ye shall receive — “Nothing shall be too hard which God hath promised, and ye by faith and prayer are fit to receive.” So Baxter. “Faith is the soul, prayer is the body; both together make a complete man for any service. Faith, if it be right, will excite prayer, and prayer is not right if it do not spring from faith. This is the condition of our receiving; we must ask in prayer, believing: the requests of prayer shall not be denied: the expectations of faith shall not be frustrated. We have many promises to this purpose from the mouth of our Lord Jesus, and all to encourage faith, the principal grace, and prayer, the principal duty of a Christian. It is but, ask and have; believe and receive; and what would we more?” So Henry.

21:18-22 This cursing of the barren fig-tree represents the state of hypocrites in general, and so teaches us that Christ looks for the power of religion in those who profess it, and the savour of it from those that have the show of it. His just expectations from flourishing professors are often disappointed; he comes to many, seeking fruit, and finds leaves only. A false profession commonly withers in this world, and it is the effect of Christ's curse. The fig-tree that had no fruit, soon lost its leaves. This represents the state of the nation and people of the Jews in particular. Our Lord Jesus found among them nothing but leaves. And after they rejected Christ, blindness and hardness grew upon them, till they were undone, and their place and nation rooted up. The Lord was righteous in it. Let us greatly fear the doom denounced on the barren fig-tree.Bethany - See the notes at Matthew 21:1.Mt 21:10-22. Stir about Him in the City—Second Cleansing of the Temple, and Miracles There—Glorious Vindication of the Children's Testimony—The Barren Fig Tree Cursed, with Lessons from It. ( = Mr 11:11-26; Lu 19:45-48).

For the exposition, see on [1334]Lu 19:45-48; and [1335]Mr 11:12-26.

See Poole on "Matthew 21:22".

Now in the morning,.... Greek "in the first", or morning light, in the dawn, or break of day, the first spring of light; so the Latins (s) use "prima luce" for early in the morning, as soon as ever day breaks: so early did Christ rise, and return from Bethany to Jerusalem;

and as he returned to the city. The Persic version renders it, "they returned"; which, though not a good version, gives a true sense; for, as Christ went with the twelve to Bethany, as Mark affirms, so these returned with him, as is clear from what follows. Thus Christ, day after day, went to and from Jerusalem: in the evening he went to Bethany, or to some part of the Mount of Olives, and there abode all night, and returned in the daytime to Jerusalem, and taught in the temple; for it does not appear that he was one night in Jerusalem, before the night of the passover.

He hungered, rising so early before his friends were up, he had eaten nothing that morning, and so before he had got far from Bethany, found himself hungry; which proves the truth of his human nature, which was in all respects like to ours, excepting sin.

(s) Caesar. Comment. 1. 1. p. 14. & passim. Curtius, 1. 5. c. 5. passim. Apulei Metamorph. 1. 9. p. 134.

{4} Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.

(4) Hypocrites will at length have their masks discovered, and any false faces taken away.

Matthew 21:18-22. The barren fig tree (Mark 11:12-14; Mark 11:19-26).—The story of two morning journeys from Bethany to Jerusalem (vide Mk.) is here compressed into one.

18–22. The Cursing of the Fig-Tree

Mark 11:12-14; Mark 11:20-24. St Mark places this incident before the “Cleansing of the Temple,” see note Matthew 21:12-14.

19 a fig tree] Rather, a single fig-tree.

found nothing thereon, but leaves only] The fig-tree loses its leaves in the winter: indeed it looks particularly bare with its white naked branches. One species, however, puts forth fruit and leaves in the very early spring, the fruit appearing before the leaves. It was doubtless a fig-tree of this kind that Jesus observed, and seeing the leaves expected to find fruit thereon. At the time of the Passover the first leaf-buds would scarcely have appeared on the common fig-tree, while this year’s ripe fruit would not be found till four months later.

The teaching of the incident depends on this circumstance (comp. Luke 13:6-9). The early fig-tree, conspicuous among its leafless brethren, seemed alone to make a show of fruit and to invite inspection. So Israel, alone among the nations of the world, held forth a promise. From Israel alone could fruit be expected; but none was found, and their harvest-time was past. Therefore Israel perished as a nation, while the Gentile races, barren hitherto, but now on the verge of their spring-time, were ready to burst into blossom and bear fruit.

presently=immediately; cp. French présentement.

the fig tree withered away] From St Mark we gather that the disciples observed the effect of the curse on the day after it was pronounced by Jesus.

Matthew 21:18. Ἐπείνασε, He hungered) though He was the King of Glory, see Matthew 21:5. Wondrous humiliation!

Verses 18-22. - The cursing of the barren fig tree. (Mark 11:12-14:, 20-26.) Verse 18. - In the morning (πρωίας, which implies a very early time of the day, and is a term used for the fourth or last watch of the night, Mark 1:35). St. Matthew has combined in one view a transaction which had two separate stages, as we gather from the narrative of St. Mark. The curse was uttered on the Monday morning, before the cleansing of the temple; the effect was beheld and the lesson given on the Tuesday, when Jesus was visiting Jerusalem for the third time (vers. 20-22). Strauss and his followers, resenting the miraculous in the incident, have imagined that the whole story is merely an embodiment and development of the parable of the fruitless fig tree recorded by St. Luke (Luke 13:6, etc.), which in course of time assumed this historical form. There is no ground whatever for this idea. It claims to be, and doubtless is, the account of a real fact, naturally connected with the circumstances of the time, and of great practical importance. He hungered. True Man, he showed the weakness of his human nature, even when about to exert his power in the Divine. There is no need, rather it is unseemly to suppose (as many old commentators have done), that this hunger was miraculous or assumed, in order to give occasion for the coming miracle. Christ had either passed the night on the mountain-side in prayer and fasting, or had started from his lodging without breaking his fast. His followers do not seem to have suffered in the same way; and it was doubtless owing to his mental preoccupation and self-forgetfulness that the Lord had not attended to bodily wants. Matthew 21:18
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