In this mornings message we looked at a passage in Mark where Jesus uses a withered fig tree to teach His disciples about faith. The previous day Jesus had cursed this fig tree for having leaves, but no fruit. On this day Jesus and His disciples walk by this same fig tree to find it completely withered.
Seems a strait forward enough story. The only issue is that Matthew seems to indicate that the withering and the lesson about faith happened immediately after Jesus cursed the tree, while Mark clearly states that it was the next day that the disciples discovered the withered tree and Jesus used it to teach them about faith.
So, which is it?
Was Matthew wrong? do these two passages contradict one another. The answer to both of these questions is, no.
In order to understand this, one had to consider all of Matthew’s writing. Throughout the gospel written by Matthew he shows much more concern about events than about the timeline. You see, Matthew focused on reporting the most important events, and not on making sure that he told them in the correct chronological order.
Consider this. Below is a list of wars and events from the American Civil war:
First Battle of Bull Run
Second Battle of Bill Run
Battle of Fort Sumter
Battle of Atlanta
Battle of Gettysburg
Each of these events were significant to the Civil War. However, they did not happen in the order listed here. Does the fact that these events are not in order alter the significance or truth of any of these events? Here are these events listed in chronological order.
Battle of For Sumter (April 12-13, 1861)
First Battle of Bull Run (July 21, 1861)
Second Battle of Bull Run (August 30-031, 1862)
Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863)
Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863)
Gettysburg Address (November 19, 1863)
Battle of Atlanta (July 22, 1864)
The point of the first list was NOT to list them in chronological order, but simply to list some of the significant battles and events from the Civil War. The point of the second list WAS to list them in chronological order. The first list is no less accurate, because the intent was never to list it chronologically.
That’s how it is with Matthew’s writings. Throughout his gospel he was much more focused on telling of important events than on chronological accuracy.
Any questions about this, or anything else, leave a comment below.