When evening came, they would go out of the city. As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. Being reminded, Peter said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.” And Jesus answered saying to them, “Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.” Mark 11:19-26
Today’s thoughts from today’s verses:
We are exploring the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of Mark this week. The events covered take place on the first couple of days of the last week of the life of Christ. This week is often called “Holy Week” or “Passion Week.” It seems that Jesus and his disciples follow a pattern for a little while of going into Jerusalem in the morning and returning to nearby Bethany for the night. We see in today’s passage that it is morning again and they are headed back to Jerusalem. On the way they pass the fig tree which Jesus had cursed the morning before on their way to Jerusalem. Now they find that the cursed fig tree has withered from the roots up.
While the cursing of the fruitless fig tree by Jesus the day before served as an object lesson and indictment against fruitless Israel, the now completely withered fig tree serves to give Jesus an important teaching moment with his disciples. The very first thing Jesus says is, “Have faith in God.” The inference is that Israel became fruitless because they did not have faith in God. The teaching point of Jesus for his disciples is that faith in God is the key to them being spiritually fruitful for God. It will not be long before the disciples find themselves in an upper room in Jerusalem celebrating the Passover with Jesus. One of many things Jesus will say to them is this, “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.”
While the analogy is about grapes instead of figs, we are still dealing with spiritual fruitfulness. Jesus makes it very clear that fruitfulness comes from him. Faith is all about letting Jesus make us fruitful even to the extent of believing that through him we can “move mountains,” even the seemingly immovable mountain between us and all those that need our complete forgiveness. Jesus absolutely does not want a repeat performance of Israel for his church which he will soon launch through his disciples after his resurrection. Christian discipleship is essentially about following a course for living life that is absolutely and completely centered in and dependent upon Jesus Christ. Scripture tells us that this course is extremely narrow, goes against the flow of humanity, is filled with obstacles, attracts opposition, resistance, persecution or even death, and requires great endurance.
We are absolutely not capable of following this course apart from an abiding relationship with Christ whereby His presence, power, and provision are poured into us. Such a relationship requires humility, surrender and dependence and herein lies the greatest challenge of this course for life – our willful selves. We want to be in charge, we want to accomplish, we want the glory of a successful Christian life; but that is not Christian discipleship. In Christian discipleship we are on a course of life where we fix our eyes on Jesus, follow Him by faith wherever He leads us, rely totally on His strength, and do it completely for His honor and glory. Jesus tells all “would be” disciples to count the cost of following Him before embarking on the journey. And what is the cost of following the Lord Jesus Christ? – it will cost everything!
Are we willing to pay the cost? Our entire self with all its time, abilities, finances and other resources must be at Christ’s disposal. Anything that gets in the way must be set aside. All personal relationships, vocations, and interests must become as nothing compared to our devotion to Christ and our commitment to His centrality in our lives. In 1 Timothy the apostle Paul says, “For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we should be content.” And then Paul says, “Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” Life indeed is the life of fruitfulness that comes from trusting Christ to do for us what we cannot do on our own.
Today’s prayer response from today’s thoughts:
Lord, I know that following you fully means that I become a truly fruitful Christian. I also know that becoming a truly fruitful Christian means absolutely depending on you through a constantly abiding relationship with you. Help me to surrender my willful self to you and empower me to live fully for you day after day. Amen!
This would be a great day to put together your own prayer response to the Lord.