Jesus, leaving Bethany early with His disciples, was Matt. xxi. 18, 19. hungry, and beholding a fig tree by the way which had Mark xi. 12-14. no fruit, He pronounced a curse against it. Proceeding to the city, He enters the temple and purifies it. Matt. xxi. 12-16. He heals there the blind and lame, and the children Mark xi. 15-19. cry, " Hosanna to the Son of David." His reproofs Luke xix. 45-48. enrage the priests and scribes, who seek how to destroy Him. In the evening He departs, and returns to Bethany.
Both Matthew and Mark relate that the Lord was hungry as He returned into the city; but upon what ground He had abstained from food that morning, does not appear. It could not well have been from the early hour of His departure from Bethany, but was probably a self-imposed
fast. It has been inferred from this circumstance that He could not have spent the night with His friends. It may have been spent in solitude and prayer.
Into an examination of the supposed moral difficulties connected with the cursing of the fig tree, we cannot here enter.1 It is plain that this miracle is narrated because of its symbolic teachings. The fig tree was the type of the Jewish people, (Luke xiii. 6-9.) They had the law, the temple, all rites of worship, the externals of righteousness ; but bore none of its true fruits. Christ found nothing but leaves.
Matthew relates the withering of the fig tree as if it took place, not only on the same day on which it was cursed, but within a few moments, (vs. 19, 20.) Mark, on the other hand, speaks as if the withering wras not seen by the disciples till the next day, (xi. 20.) Greswell, who supposes that the malediction instantly took effect, and that the tree began at once to wither, would make Matthew and Mark refer to two distinct conversations between the Lord and the disciples; one that day, and the other upon the next. More probably, Matthew brings together all that occurred upon both days, in order to complete his narrative.2
That this purification of the temple is distinct from that at the beginning of His ministry, (John ii. 13-17,) has been already shown. That the latter was passed over by the Synoptists, is explained from the fact that they begin their account of Jesus' ministry with His departure to Galilee after John the Baptist's imprisonment. That John should omit the former, is wholly in keeping with the character of his Gospel. The first cleansing and rebuke had wrought no permanent results, and the old abuses were restored in full vigor.
1 See Trench on Miracles, p. 346.
2 So Alford, Trench, Krafft, Wieseler.
After cleansing the temple, or that part of the court of the Gentiles called " the shops," where every day was sold wine, salt, oil, as also oxen and sheep,1 He permits the blind and lame, probably those who asked alms at the gates, to come to Him, and He healed them. These healings, and the expressions of wonder and gratitude which they called forth, joined to the remembrance of the acclamations that had greeted Him the day before, led the children in the temple, who may have been members of the choir of singers employed in the templ»e service, to cry, " Hosanna to the Son of David," greatly to the displeasure of the priests and scribes. It is remarkable that children only are mentioned, and may indicate that already the multitude, overawed by the firm and hostile bearing of His enemies, had begun to waver, and dared no more openly express their good will. (See, however, Mark xi. 18.)
Some, from the fact that the children are here mentioned as crying Hosanna, and that in the temple, make it to have been on the day of the Lord's entry.8 But there is no difficulty in believing that the children might now re-echo what they had heard a few hours before.3
1 See Lightfoot on Matt. xxi. 12. a Alford, Newcome, Robinson.
8 Krafift, Wieseler, Lichtenstein, Ellicott.