What does Matthew record was the disciples’ reaction to the withering of the fig tree? See Mat 21:20. Which disciple in particular does Mark say expressed his surprise? See Mar 11:21. What question did the disciples ask, and what does their question and amazement indicate about the withering of the fig tree being more than just a natural phenomenon? What was Jesus’ response to their surprise? See Mat 21:21, Mar 11:22-23. The disciples asked Jesus a specific question: how did the fig tree wither? Did Jesus give them a specific answer, or a more general one? What does this teach us about our need to know or understand the specific mechanism that God may use to accomplish something in order to have our prayers answered? What unseen mechanism that is separate from the natural realm and not understood or even acknowledged by the wisdom of men does Scripture repeatedly describe that is a more specific answer to their question? See Exo 12:23, Num 22:21-27,31-33, 2Ki 6:15-17, 19:35, 1Ch 21:14-16,26-27,30, Psa 91:10-13, Dan 6:22, Mat 28:2, Joh 5:4, Act 5:19, 12:7,23; cf. Mat 8:5-10,13.
Certainly the withering of the fig tree would have been a startling demonstration of Christ’s own power and faith in God, but what two things are even more startling about His response? Think: Do we ourselves—any more than the disciples would have—even remotely imagine that such power as that which Jesus demonstrated over the fig tree potentially resides within us, let alone an immeasurably greater power that is able to move mountains? How does a mountain compare to a fig tree, and what does this teach us about the potential power of prayer? What two conditions does Jesus mention in Mat 21:21 as requirements for our prayers to become so effectually powerful? Cf. Mat 21:22, Jam 1:6-8. Are we to suppose this means that the mechanism that taps into such power is faith itself, and that belief in anything, as long as it is fervent and without doubt, can accomplish such great things? See again Mar 11:22 and note that such a belief in an impersonal “Star Wars” type force that is accessed by looking “within” ourselves and using “mind techniques” to make “positive confession” so as to allow no room for doubt are actually a hallmark of shamanism and witchcraft that the pagan world has sought out from ancient times in order to manipulate reality. Cf. Mat 4:3-4 and observe that our faith has a controlling object, and the faith that moves mountains does so because that faith is in Him Who does so according to His will that we pray to be done, not our own. Cf. Joh 15:7, 1Jo 5:14-15.
As we have seen, the cursing of the fig tree was an acted parable that foretold the withering of the Jewish nation for its barrenness of fruit in spite of its religious pretensions. As the fig tree symbolized the nation of Israel, what does the mountain symbolize? See Isa 2:11-17, 40:4, Mat 17:18-20, 2Co 10:4-5; cf. Psa 68:16, Isa 2:2, Dan 2:35, Zec 4:6-9. What mountain in particular would Jesus have been referring to as “this mountain” in Mat 21:21? Should we necessarily assume that Jesus’ words regarding the Mount of Olives are entirely figurative? Cf. Zec 14:1-5. What is the spiritual significance of something being cast into the sea? Cf. Jer 51:25, 61-64, Rev 8:8-9, 18:21, Neh 9:10-11, Luk 17:1-5. In this light, should we assume that our prayers to move mountains will necessarily be answered instantaneously? Cf. Gen 15:13-16 and think: does God move mountains for show, or to accomplish His own purposes? Cf. Jesus’ example in Mat 4:5-7 as well the example of Pharaoh in Rom 9:17,22. Are His purposes typically fulfilled according to our timing or His own? Does the fact that He answers our prayers in His own time and according to His own perfect wisdom to accomplish His own eternal purposes make Jesus’ promises about prayer any less true?