Application of This Acted Parable
Matthew 21:17-21
And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.…

I. The fig-tree represented immediately, we cannot doubt, in our Lord's intention. THE ACTUAL STATE OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE. The heathen nations, judged from a Divine point of view, were barren enough. Israel was barren also, but then Israel was also pretentious and false. Israel was covered with leaves. The letter of the law — the memories, the sepulchres of the prophets — the ancient sacrifices — the accredited teachers — all were in high consideration. Israel was, to all appearance, profoundly religious. But the searching eye of our Lord found no fruit upon this tree beneath the leaves — no true soul-controlling belief even in the promises of the Messiah, of which they made so much — no true sense of their obligation and of their incapacity to please God. The tree by the roadside was a visible symbol of the moral condition of Israel as it presented 'itself to the eye of Christ, and there was no longer any reason for suspending the judgment which had been foretold in the Saviour's parable: "No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever." If humanity needed light, strength, peace, consolations, Israel could no longer give them. Israel was hereafter to be a blasted and withered tree on the wayside of history.

II. The parable applies with equal force TO NATIONS OR TO CHURCHES IN CHRISTENDOM WHICH MAKE GREAT PRETENSIONS AND DO LITTLE OR NOTHING OF REAL VALUE TO MANKIND. For a time the tree waves its leaves in the wind. It lives on, sustained by the traditional habits and reverence of ages. Men admire the symbol of so many blessings — of so much activity and life. There is nothing to raise a question as to the true state of the case. But, at His own time, Christ passes along the highway — passes to inquire and to judge: some unforeseen calamity, some public anxiety, some shock to general confidence, lifts the leaves of that tree and discovers its real fruitlessnes.

III. To EVERY INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIAN THIS PARABLE IS FULL OF WARNING. The religious activity of the human soul may be divided, roughly, into leaves and fruit — showy forms of religious activity and interest on the one side, and the direct produce of religious conviction on the other. It is much easier to grow leaves than to grow fruit; and many a man's life veils the absence of fruit by the abundance of leaves. To take an interest in religious questions and discussions is better than to be totally indifferent to them; but mere acquaintance with, and interest in, such proves nothing as to the condition of the conscience — the real tenor of the heart — the deepest movements of the inmost life — the soul's state before God and its prospects for eternity. An anxious question for all is, whether the foliage of our Christian life is the covering of fruit beneath that is ripening for heaven, or only a thing of precocious and unnatural growth which has drained away the tree's best sap before its time, and made good fruit almost impossible. No show of leaves, no fervour of language, no glow of feeling, no splendour of outward achievements for Christ's cause and kingdom, will compensate, in His sight, for the absence of the fruits of the spirit.

(Canon Liddon.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.

WEB: He left them, and went out of the city to Bethany, and lodged there.

A Fruitful Profession
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