Today’s Bible Reading:
Mark 11:12-26 (NLT)
Jesus Curses the Fig Tree
12 The next morning as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 He noticed a fig tree in full leaf a little way off, so he went over to see if he could find any figs. But there were only leaves because it was too early in the season for fruit. 14 Then Jesus said to the tree, “May no one ever eat your fruit again!” And the disciples heard him say it.
Jesus Clears the Temple
15 When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, 16 and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace.* 17 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”*
18 When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him. But they were afraid of him because the people were so amazed at his teaching.
19 That evening Jesus and the disciples left* the city.
20 The next morning as they passed by the fig tree he had cursed, the disciples noticed it had withered from the roots up. 21 Peter remembered what Jesus had said to the tree on the previous day and exclaimed, “Look, Rabbi! The fig tree you cursed has withered and died!”
22 Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. 23 I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. 24 I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. 25 But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.*”
26, But if you refuse to forgive, your Father in heaven will not forgive.
Verse of the Day:
Today’s reading is jam packed full of good stuff!
We find Jesus leaving the town of Bethany (that’s where Lazarus, Mary and Martha lived). Ah, the story of the fig tree. Most of us remember this story. There are no figs on the tree, just leaves. Jesus curses the tree and they move on to Jerusalem. I honestly didn’t realize that it was on their way back through the area that the disciples noticed the fig tree was dead. I guess that I had assumed it happened rather quickly before their eyes. Not so from what Mark tells us.
ALTHOUGH, I did a little research and it seems Matthew and Mark remember this story differently! Matthew said it DID wither IMMEDIATELY:
18 In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, 19 and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up. – Matthew 21:18-19
So, we are finding that the disciples are more and more like us every day! Ha! They don’t even remember the story exactly the same 🙂
Now to Jerusalem. Mark goes straight into the story of Jesus clearing out the Temple. It has become more of a marketplace than a place of prayer and worship. I can’t imagine what it would be like to see Jesus walk in and start throwing things.
Here we see again that the high priests are not happy with Jesus and they begin plotting how to kill him. But, they were afraid of him. I believe they know what they are doing, but their jealousy and anger trump their guilt.
Then, they leave.
Jesus did not stick around at all in that hot mess.
It is the next morning that Jesus and His disciples pass back by the dead fig tree (per Mark’s account, anyhow) and Jesus gives them the lesson on faith and forgiveness.
We’ve heard this saying in sermons and songs alike through the years: Have faith! Say to the mountain move and it will move!
And then – that next verse is quoted even more: Pray for anything and if you believe, it’s yours!
But, I think these last few verses are the key to everything Jesus has said up to this point. And I would guess that this part of the equation is what most often gets left off, possibly even ignored, by everyone that wants to move mountains and claim what they’re praying for.
ANYONE that you are holding a grudge against.
And if you don’t?
Well, your Father won’t forgive you.
And you can certainly forget that part about moving mountains and claiming what you believe for! Amen?
Here’s to praying today and asking God to help us. God, change our hearts of judgement and unforgiveness. Move us past these things that stand in the way of drawing closer to You. Build a trust in us that You have a plan that will unfold when we can’t see ahead. Help us to walk in that path and to continuously show Your love instead of our convictions and anger.
Question: What do you struggle most with in terms of forgiveness? My answer: I’m struggling currently with watching Christians in church and leadership that make poor decisions. This is especially tough when it is people that I interact with on a frequent basis. My entire attitude changes when I see them publicly doing things that go against the church and the Bible. I’m having a very hard time seeing to the other side of that and realizing that we are all human. I don’t really WANT to forgive their actions. I want to be cold and give the cold shoulder. At times I wish I could crawl up in a hole and just not see or hear what anyone else does. Just being honest. I know that God has got a lot to teach me in this area.
What’s your answer? Comment below and share your perspective with our small group.
P.S. – tomorrow is our Wednesday day of rest! Take the day to read back over our scriptures so far and let them soak in. Spend some time talking with God about what we’ve learned and to prepare us for what is ahead. See you on Thursday!