SNAKES AND DOVES
Lord, help me to deal effectively with those who oppose me.
Read MATTHEW 21:18–27
Jesus Curses a Fig Tree
18 Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to 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, “Truly I tell you, 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.”
The Authority of Jesus Questioned
23 Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”
27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all” (Romans 12:16b,17, NRSV).
In Jesus’ time most people ate two meals a day—and maybe an early snack. In this account, Jesus and his disciples leave early for the temple. Being hungry, he looks for figs on a roadside tree and finds nothing, not even in bud form. The prophet Micah likens Israel’s moral and religious failure to that of a fig tree with no fruit. Thus, by cursing the fig tree, Jesus is conceivably indicating the judgment which would overtake Israel.
However, the disciples respond not to allusions toward Israel but to the impressive power of Jesus’ word. Their question facilitates his teaching about prayer with undoubting faith. His promise concerning prayer does not mean that we can believe for six impossible things before breakfast and God will answer. Praying with faith is not bending God to what we want, but trusting in him to answer for good in all circumstances.
The crowds also flock to the temple early each morning to hear Jesus teach. No wonder the chief priests and elders envy him, questioning the source of his authority. Whatever answer he issues is cause for his arrest, but Jesus is not to be trapped. He turns their enquiry back onto them by questioning them about John the Baptist’s authority. They refuse to answer him. So, neither will he answer them. Dealing effectively with both supporters and detractors, Jesus is our perfect example of being “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16, NRSV). We need to be both in order to serve him well. Prayer for wisdom will be answered forthrightly. Perhaps harmless/innocent as doves is more difficult for us to understand. Innocence is not the same as naiveté—innocence knows the full depths of evil but is not part of it.
Pray for Christians in leadership positions in church or community and for yourself, that God will enable wisdom like serpents and innocence like doves. Trust him to answer.
Lord, teach Your people how to balance secular obligations with spiritual obligations.
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