Matthew 21:20
And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!
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(20) And when the disciples saw it.—Here again St. Mark’s narrative (Mark 11:20-21) seems at once the fullest and the most precise. As he relates the facts, the disciples did not perceive that the fig-tree was withered away till they passed by on the following morning. Peter then remembered what had been said the day before, and, as the spokesman of the rest, drew his Master’s attention to the fact. The immediate withering may have been inferred from its completeness when seen, or its beginning may have been noticed by some at the time.

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.And when the disciples saw it - That is, on the morning following that on which it was cursed, Mark 11:20.

They marveled, saying ... - Peter said this, Mark 11:21 Matthew means only to say that this was said to him; Mark tells us which one of them said it.

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".

And when the disciples saw it,.... The next day in the morning, as Mark says: they had, heard what Christ had said to it the day before, as the same evangelist observes; but did not take notice of the immediate withering of the tree; but the next morning, as they returned from Bethany, they saw it dried up from the roots:

they marvelled; not that Christ should curse it, but that it should wither away so soon, and upon his saying what he did; which was a considerable instance of his power and Godhead, all creatures, animate and inanimate, being at his command and disposal:

saying, how soon is the fig tree withered away? This was said by Peter, in the name of the rest, who recollecting what Jesus had said to it the day before, and observing how the event had answered his words so soon, addressed Christ after this manner: "master, behold the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away"; expressing his wonder at it, and ascribing, it to the power of Christ; of which this was an amazing proof and evidence.

And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!
Matthew 21:20. οἱ μαθηταὶ, etc.: the disciples wondered at the immediate withering of the tree. Did they expect it to die, as a diseased tree, gradually?

20. they marvelled] It was rather the power and wonder of the act than the deeper significance of it that moved the disciples. The miracle was to them an “act of power” (δύναμις), or a “wonder” (τέρας), rather than a “sign” (σημεῖον). Yet Jesus follows the turn their thoughts take, and teaches that prayer and faith will remove mountains of difficulty, see ch. Matthew 17:20.

Verse 20. - They marvelled, saying. The apostles' remark on the incident was made on the Tuesday, as we learn from St. Mark's more accurate account. After Christ had spoken his malediction, the little band went on their way to Jerusalem, where was performed the cleansing of the temple. On their return to Bethany, if they passed the tree, it was doubtless too dark to observe its present condition, and it was not till the next morning that they noticed what had happened. St. Matthew does not name the apostle who was the mouthpiece of the others in expressing astonishment at the miracle; he is satisfied with speaking generally of "the disciples" (comp. Matthew 26:8 with John 12:4). We learn from St. Mark that it was Peter who made the observation recorded, deeply affected by the sight of this instance of Christ's power, and awestruck by the speedy and complete accomplishment of the curse. How soon is the fig tree withered away! better, How did the fig tree immediately wither away? Vulgate, Quomodo continue aruit? They saw, but could not comprehend, the effect of Christ's word, and wonderingly inquired how it came to pass. They did not at present realize the teaching of this parabolic act - how it gave solemn warning of the certainty of judgment on the unfruitful Jewish Church, which, hopelessly barren, must no longer cumber the earth. Christ did not help them to understand the typical nature of the transaction. He is not wont to explain in words the spiritual significance of his miracles; the connection between miracle and teaching is left to be inferred, to be brought out by meditation, prayer, faith, and subsequent circumstances. The total rejection of the Jews was a doctrine for which the apostles were not yet prepared; so the Lord, in wisdom and mercy, withheld its express enunciation at this moment. In mercy too he exemplified the sternness and severity of God's judgment by inflicting punishment on an inanimate object, and not on a sentient being; he withered a tree, not a sinful man, by the breath of his mouth. Matthew 21:20
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