THE WITHERED FIG TREE
Mark 11:20 - 26
I love the story of the college basketball coach who was shaving one morning when his wife called him from the other room to tell him that Sports Illustrated was on the phone asking for him. With visions of an interview and the national recognition that it would bring, he hurried through the rest of his shaving, managing to nick himself three or four times. His face bearing the minor wounds of this episode, he rushed to the phone, tripping over the dog and banging his shin against a chair. At last, he had the receiver in hand and asked, "This is Sports Illustrated?" The voice came back, "Yes it is, and for $39.95 we can offer you a special subscription price..."
Have you ever suffered through disillusionment? Expecting one thing and then getting another? Jesus did. On the day that He came to Jerusalem on His triumphal entry, He came to a fig tree in full bloom. Even though it was not the season for figs, it gave every appearance of having them. But when Jesus turned aside to partake of its fruit, there was none. The leaves were a lie. And Jesus pronounced a curse upon the tree, stating that it would never bear fruit again.
A. A FULFILLED CURSE.
And as they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up.
And being reminded, Peter said to Him, "Rabbi, behold, the fig tree which You cursed has withered." (Mark 11:20-21).
The fig tree which Jesus had cursed on the previous day had withered in a single evening. Before this day ends, He will speak a similar word of woe against the nation of Israel. And within the timespan of a single generation, the nation will be destroyed.
The curse of the fig tree is not about trees and fruit. It is about faith and fakery. When Jesus cursed the fig tree, he was acting out a spiritual lesson. He was on His way to a Temple and to a religious system that had all of the leaves of piety, but which was dead and fruitless on the inside.
Jesus was disappointed in the tree. But He was a lot more disappointed in the people in the Temple who were going through all of the motions of religion without bearing any spiritual fruit. And He is just as disappointed in us when we do the same thing.
Do you ever wonder why churches whither up and die? Perhaps it is because the Lord of the Church comes looking for fruit and doesnít find any.
B. A LESSON IN FAITH.
And Jesus answered saying to them, "Have faith in God.
"Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ĎBe taken up and cast into the sea,í and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it shall be granted him." (Mark 11:22-23).
Jesus is going to teach the disciples about faith and that lesson will have an application in how they pray. But before we look at that, notice the context of the barren fig tree. This missing ingredient in Israel which led to her barren condition was a lack of FAITH.
You see, Jesus had cursed the fig tree for not having figs, even though it was not the season for figs (Mark 11:13). You might argue, "Thatís unfair to curse a tree for not having figs when it isnít even the season for figs!"
You also might argue, "Itís unfair for God to judge Israel for a lack of faith when they did not have the completed Scriptures!" The truth is that the unbeliever can always find a reason not to believe.
"How can I believe all of the promises of the prophets for a coming Messiah? It has been hundreds of years and He still hasnít come!"
"How can I believe this Galilean Rabbi when He has so recently come on the scene? He hasnít stood the test of time!"
"How can I believe in the message of these Christians when its leaders are simple, uneducated fishermen?"
"How can I believe in Jesus when I haven't seen Him? All I have to go by is the Bible and that isn't enough!"
Many years ago, a missionary couple who were friends of ours had gone to Turkey. They had been there only a few months when there was a knock at the door. The husband went to answer it and he was shot and killed. He left a wife and an infant child. We saw her when she arrived back in the States and Paula remarked, "I don't know how she can handle it so well! She is handling it better than I am." A woman in our church turned to us and replied, "Thatís because God didnít give you the grace to go through that situation."
Here is the principle. God has supernatural power available to you to do whatever it is that He has called you to do.
Where has God put you? In an office? You have been given the power to meet the challenges of that office. In your home? God promises you resources to be faithful to Him in that home. In a school? The power of God is sufficient for you in that school.
Now, that means you do not have resources that you do not need. You do not have the resources to stand before the cannibals of Africa if God has not sent you to the cannibals of Africa.
It is like the man who was working in his house and smashed his hand with a hammer. He went to the doctorís office and found that all the bones had been broken. When the doctor had set the bones and then placed the injured hand into a cast, the man asked, "Doc, will I be able to play the piano when I get this cast off?" "Yes," replied the doctor, "I guarantee that you will be able to play the piano."
"That's just great!" said the man, "I could never play before."
One of the reasons that we get into trouble is that we try to do something that God hasnít called us to do. I am like that. I have a tendency to try to be everything to everyone. And whenever I try to do it, I get into trouble.
Jesus is talking to the disciples about moving mountains. What is your mountain?
A marriage partner?
The lack of a marriage partner?
Whatever of those things you think it is, it probably isnít. Your mountain is YOU. And when you ask the Lord in faith to move THAT mountain, it will be moved. And then you will be able to move the other one.
C. AN APPLICATION IN PRAYER.
"Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted you.
"And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions.
"But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions." (Mark 11:24-26).
Common sense says that you believe only after you have seen the evidence to substantiate that belief. But Jesus said to believe BEFORE you see. There are two principles taught here with regards to prayer.
Notice that Jesus says to believe that you have already received that for which you are to ask. You are to claim it as a present reality.
This is true of everything that we are and everything that we have in Christ. Christianity always involves believing before seeing. And it is only when you believe that you receive.
The writer to the Hebrews put it a different way when he said: "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6).
Here is the principle. Forgiven people forgive. People who have not been forgiven hold grudges.
For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13).
You might argue, "This makes forgiveness to be the condition of Godís pardon. I thought that we received Godís pardon as a result of the work of Christ." That is true. However, the pardon of God never comes without repentance. Indeed, repentance is the outward sign that you have been pardoned. God does not pardon us merely because we have repented. He pardons us on the basis of the cross. But that pardon does not come apart from repentance. Your repentance is the outward sign that you have been pardoned. And in the same way, your forgiveness of others is a sign of your true repentance.
You forgive others
If you do not forgive others, it is a sign that you have not repented and non-repentance is a sign that you are still in your sins.
Christ did not come only to reconcile you with God. He also came to reconcile you with your fellow man. It is for this reason that we call Him the Prince of Peace.