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Matthew 21:18-46

Fruit that Remains

  • Matthew Dodd
  • Sunday Night Messages
  • July 07, 2019

Fruit is good. It’s beautiful to look at, tastes good, and has great nutritional value. The same is true of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is pleasant and a blessing to everyone. God wants and expects good fruit from His people.

As we study Matthew’s Gospel, we are going to discover what it means to have fruitful lives, the kind of lives that glorify God because they produce Fruit that Remains.

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

Fruit that Remains

Matthew 21:18-46


ILLUS – One bad apple

1.Fruit is good. It’s beautiful to look at, tastes good, and has great nutritional value.

2.The same is true of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is pleasant and a blessing to everyone.

3.God wants and expects good fruit from His people.

John 15:16, You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.

4.Tonight, as we continue our study of Matthew’s Gospel, we are going to discover what it means to have fruitful lives, the kind of lives that glorify God because they produce Fruit that Remains.

Matthew 21:18-46


1.Last week, we studied the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, one of the most significant events in human history.

2.Remember the progression of what transpired after Jesus entered Jerusalem.

a.He immediately entered the Temple and saw the corruption in His House, so He cleansed it.

c.After cleansing the Temple, He healed the blind and the lame that came to Him.

d.Then He received rightful worship from the children as they resumed singing Psalm 118, “Hosanna to the Son of David”. (15)

3.Step back for a moment and realize how significant this day was for Israel and for us as well.

a.God had called Israel to be His chosen people and placed His name on them as His people, on Jerusalem as the holy city of peace, and on the Temple, His house.

b.God caused His glory to be among them that it might be a picture for all people that God desires to be “Emmanuel”, God with us.

4.Here was Jesus, the Son of God, Healer of the blind, the deaf, the lame, Cleanser of lepers, Victor over demons, and the One who raised Lazarus form the dead; this should have been a day of triumph and great rejoicing, but it was day of confrontation instead.

5.The chief priests and Pharisees confronted Jesus when they should have joined the crowds as they rejoiced at the arrival of their King.

6.Their response to Jesus revealed the condition of their hearts and, as we will see, Jesus unveiled the problem with their hearts through His actions and words.

7.God always does things for a reason, with a purpose, and there is divine purpose behind the many life lessons in this passage that we must pay careful attention to so that we may have lives that produce Fruit that Remains.

I. God Expects More Than Just Fig Leaves (18-22)

  • The day after the Triumphal Entry, Jesus and the disciples returned to Jerusalem.
  • Jesus was hungry and saw a lone fig tree by the side of the road.
  • When He did not find any figs, Jesus cursed the tree and it immediately withered.
  • The disciples were shocked. They had witnessed many miracles by Jesus, always healing and restoring, even calming storms.
  • But here they witnessed judgment against a fig tree. Was Jesus grumpy because His blood sugar was too low? Not at all. 
  • Again, God has a purpose for all that He does and through this event Jesus sent a message that is instructive for all.

A. God expects good fruit

1.There are several interesting facts about fig trees.

a. Fig trees grow to be 20’ tall.

b. They produce large leaves which are good for shade, though they are less effective when used as clothing, just ask Adam and Eve.

c. Fig trees produce two crops per year. The first crop was eaten fresh. The second crop was dried and eaten during the winter months.

d. But the next fact has important relevance for Matthew 21. Fig trees produce fruit before they grow leaves. So, if a fig tree has leaves, it should have fruit!

2.Spiritually speaking, the fig tree has great significance because throughout the Scriptures God compares Israel to a fig tree.

a. When Israel obeyed God because they were walking by faith, the fig tree was used as a picture of prosperity because God’s blessing was upon them.

1 Kings 4:25, So Judah and Israel lived in safety, every man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.

b. But when Israel rebelled against God, the fig tree was a sign of God’s judgment.

Jeremiah 5:15, 17, “Behold, I am bringing a nation against you from afar, O house of Israel,” declares the Lord… “They will devour your harvest and your food; they will devour your sons and your daughters; they will devour your flocks and your herds; they will devour your vines and your fig trees;
they will demolish with the sword your fortified cities in which you trust.”

3.Jesus expected to find figs on the fig tree.

a. There should have been fruit, but it only had leaves.

b. God’s purpose for the fig tree is to bear fruit not just leaves.

4.Spiritually speaking, God expected fruit from Israel, but He found only leaves.

5.Israel appeared to be godly, but it was just an outward show of religion. Israel was fruitless.

a. Sure, they had the great Temple built by Herod the Great, which they considered to be one of the great wonders of the world.

b. Sure, they had more than 20,000 priests and Levites, plus tens of thousands of rabbis, offering sacrifices daily with the smoke of those sacrifices visible throughout the region.

c. But where was their heart for God? They had the appearance of religion, but they did not take God’s Word into their hearts.

d. The religious leaders simply found a way to use God’s Word to take advantage of others in order to maintain their power and control.

APPL – If God’s Word had been written on their hearts, it would have produced the sincere and genuine result of God moving in their lives.

  • They would have repented at the preaching of John the Baptist.

Matthew 3:7-8, But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance

  • They would have beheld the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world and received Jesus as their Savior and King.
  • Likewise, when God’s Word is working in our lives, our hearts are transformed because we desire more than just a “religious show”, we want more of Jesus!

ILLUS – There are in some churches today who have the outward appearance of religion

2 Timothy 3:1-5, But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these.

B.  Faith always produces good fruit

1. The next verses in Matthew 21 have been misunderstood and misapplied for many years.

2.After Jesus cursed the fig tree, the disciples marveled when the fig tree immediately withered. So, they asked Jesus, “How did the fig tree wither all at once?” (20)

a.They did not ask “Why?”, they asked “How?”.

b.But both questions are important to answer.

3.Jesus answered, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” (21-22)

4.Once again, we see that God has a great purpose in what He does for the withering of the fig tree and Jesus’ teaching about casting the mountain into the sea are related.

5.It is important to read the text carefully for there are important clues which will help us discern what Jesus meant by His explanation.

a.First, remember their destination, they were going up to Jerusalem.

b.Second, Jerusalem is called God’s “holy mountain” for it is located on seven hills.

Daniel 9:16, O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all those around us.

c.Third, please notice Jesus said, “this mountain” not “a mountain”. What mountain was “this mountain”? Jerusalem, God’s holy mountain!

d.So, Jesus was not referring to any old mountain that gives you grief, like poor health, unemployment, an unfaithful spouse, or a rebellious child. He was talking about Jerusalem, the religious center of Israel. 

6.Does God’s Word ever talk about moving mountains as a form of judgment? Yes.

Revelation 8:8, The second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood

7.Like the fig tree that withered when cursed, Jesus compared Israel to a great mountain that will be cast into the sea, in other words, dispersed among all the nations of the earth because they did not receive God’s Word and they rejected God by rejecting God’s Son.

8.So, Matthew 21:21-22 is a prophetic warning about the outpouring of God’s wrath on Israel during the Great Tribulation period. Jesus will develop this teaching in Matthew 24-25.

9.But, contrary to the teachings of some, God is not done with Israel for the nation of Israel has great significance in fulfilling prophecies during the latter days of which we are now entering.

Amos 9:14-15, “Also I will restore the captivity of My people Israel, and they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them;

they will also plant vineyards and drink their wine, and make gardens and eat their fruit. I will also plant them on their land, and they will not again be rooted out from their land
which I have given them,” says the Lord your God.

APPL – It’s sad to see that some have taken these verses and used them as a formula to “make God” do what they want Him to do.

  • But God is not a genie that pops out of a bottle and says, “Yes, Master, what shall I do for you?”
  • The faith that produces good fruit is one that is living, one that is completely trusting of and leans heavily upon God’s purpose and power.
  • It approaches God with humility and trusts His heart for us.
  • It finds out what God is doing and says, “Yes, Lord” and also “not my will, but Your will be done in my life.”

II. God Expects More Than Just Lip Service (23-46)

  • We’re told that once Jesus arrived at the Temple, He began to teach the people. (23)
  • The chief priests and elders saw Him and challenged Him, asking, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?” (23)
  • Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?” (24-25)
  • After reasoning together, they lied and said, “We do not know” because they feared the people for they all regarded “John as a prophet”. (26)
  • So, Jesus told them two parables which were like mirrors so that they may see the condition of their hearts and change.

A. Say “Yes” to the Father in word and deed

1.The first parable is about a father who had two sons, both were told to go and work in the vineyard.

2.The first son said, “I will not”; but afterwards regretted his choice and went. (29)

3.The second son said, “I will, sir”; but he did not go. (30)

4.Jesus asked, “Which of the two did the will of his father?” (31) The first son! What was Jesus’ point?

5.The chief priests and elders gave the appearance of obedience, but it was only “lip service”.

a.They said “Yes” but there was no fruit in keeping with repentance after they heard the warnings from John the Baptist. They rejected John and allowed his execution because they were more concerned about their position and power than being right with God.

b.Rather, it was those who had been lost in sin and were far from God, the tax-collectors and prostitutes, the lowest in Israel, whose hearts were broken at the teaching of John the Baptist and repented and said, “Yes” to God.

APPL – Saying “Yes” to God is what brings real change and the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

  • The workers in the vineyard is an important picture because it’s about encouraging fruit in other people’s lives.
  • That’s what God is doing, and we are most blessed when we’re doing what God is doing.

John 15:5, I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

  • Learning to say “Yes” to God comes from having a living relationship where we abide in Jesus and grow because of His life in us.
  • The Apostle Paul is a great illustration of one who was committed to helping others grow in their relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Colossians 1:28-29, We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

Through his words and deeds, Paul was constantly pointing people to Jesus so that they may live their lives to the full and pass it on to others.

2 Timothy 2:2, The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

B. Say “Yes” to the Father by receiving His Son

1.The second parable is about a landowner who planted a vineyard and rented it out to vine growers, and then went on a journey.

2.When harvest time approached, he sent his servants to receive his produce.

3.But the renters took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned the third. So, the owner sent even more servants, but the renters did the same thing to them.

4.This is a picture of Israel and their response to the prophets that God had sent to them.

Luke 13:34-35, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! Behold, your house is left to you desolate

5.Finally, the landowner sent his son, but the renters cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. Here, Jesus predicted what the chief priests and elders would do to Him for they crucified Him outside the city.

6.Jesus said this too was a fulfillment of Scripture which says, “The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief cornerstone… and it is marvelous in our eyes.” (42)

7.Jesus clearly explained what He meant when He said the kingdom of God would be taken away from them and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.

8.That nation is us, the Church, and we are to be producing the fruit of the kingdom of God. In fact, the fruit we produce is to have an impact on the people of Israel, those who had rejected God’s Son, so that they may turn and be grafted back into the Vine.


APPL – God wants our lives to be fruitful.

  • Fig leaves won’t do. It’s about a living relationship with God, not a “religious show”.
  • Lip service won’t do. A living faith always says “Yes” to the Lord and then produces good fruit.
  • Do you want to glorify God with your life and bear fruit that remains?
  • God wants this for you. All you need to do is ask and let God’s Spirit transform you as you let God’s Word richly dwell within you so that you may go from faith to faith and glory to glory!

Jeremiah 17:8, For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.

Matthew 21:18-46    NASB

18 Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. 19 Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He *said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered.
20 Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, “How did the fig tree wither all at once?” 21 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen.22 And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
23 When He entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?” 24 Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things.25 The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?” And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the people; for they all regard John as a prophet.” 27 And answering Jesus, they said, “We do not know.” He also said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
28“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’29 And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go.31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They *said, “The first.” Jesus *said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.
33“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. 35 The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. 37 But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’38 But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’39 They took him, and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?”41 They *said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.”

42 Jesus *said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures. ‘The stone which the builders rejected,This became the chief cornerstone;This came about from the Lord,And it is marvelous in our eyes’?43 Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it.44 And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. 46 When they sought to seize Him, they feared the people, because they considered Him to be a prophet.



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