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Verses 20-21

Mark 11:20-21 . And in the morning, they passed by, &c. Next morning, as they were returning to Jerusalem, it astonished the disciples not a little when they looked on the fig-tree that had been pronounced barren the night before, and found it dried up from the roots, that is, quite withered down to the ground and shrunk: a miracle the more extraordinary, because the fig-tree is remarkable for its abundant sap and moisture. Peter, in particular, expressed great surprise at it, saying, Master, Behold the fig- tree which thou cursedst is withered away. “We have seen already that Jesus only said to the fig-tree, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever; this Peter, according to the Jewish manner of speaking concerning things that are barren, (Hebrews 6:8,) called a cursing of the fig-tree. And some ill-disposed readers, not apprehending the proper force of the words, are apt to form a very unbecoming notion of Jesus from this action. But they do so without the least cause. Every thing he said on the occasion was decent. Moreover, the transaction was intended to prefigure the speedy ruin of the Jewish nation, on account of its unfruitfulness under greater advantages than any other people enjoyed at that day, and, like all the rest of his miracles, was done with a gracious intention, namely, to alarm his countrymen, and to induce them to repent.” Macknight. Thus Bishop Hall viewed this miracle, as appears by his excellent paraphrase on the passage: “When he saw a fig-tree in the way, he came purposely to seek that fruit which he knew he should not find ripe, that he might hence take occasion to work that exemplary miracle upon it which ensued: for when he found only store of leaves upon it and no fruit, that he might in this tree show how much he hates a formal profession (such as the Jews made) of religion, without an answerable fruitfulness, he cursed the fig-tree, and said, Let that which is thy fault be thy punishment; since thou bearest no fruit at all, never mayest thou bear any. And presently the fig-tree, as blasted by that word of judgment, withered away.” It is observable that the destruction of the swine, and this blasting of the fig-tree, were the only instances of punitive miracles in the whole course of our Saviour’s ministry, notwithstanding they do not appear to have been injurious. The case of the swine we have already considered; (see note on Matthew 8:30-32;) and, with respect to the fig-tree, Matthew informs us that it was in the way, that is, in the common road, and therefore probably no particular person’s property; but if it was, being barren, the timber might be as serviceable to the owner as before. So that here was no real injury; but Jesus was pleased to make use of this innocent miracle for the valuable purposes above suggested, as well as to teach his disciples the efficacy of faith, spoken of in the next words.

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