FEBRUARY 7, 2016
MAIN TEXT: MARK 11: 12-25
On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.
And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city.
As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 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 trespasses.”
The text we are reading today is a monumental day in redemptive history. It is a huge moment in the history of the world, in God’s story. The reason it is such a big day is that it is a physical showing of what is to come, that the temple will go away and discontinue to be the place of worship to meet God.
This portion of Scripture has been considered a controversial text for many people who have read it over the years. One of the main reasons is because it is the only destructive miracle that we see in the gospels.
Jesus is King, Priest and Prophet. A very common form of prophetic communication, especially in the Old Testament, is the object lesson. A prophet would take something from nature or everyday life and use it to communicate God’s truth. This is a living parable that Jesus would use to explain truth. He had an object - the tree with leaves but not producing fruit - that illustrated what was coming.
Fruitless is Useless
This tree has the appearance of fruit. The leaves were there. The fruit may not have been fully ripe, but there should have been something on there. However, that wasn’t the reality. This tree had nothing as far as fruit was concerned. It was a false profession. And it was a very graphic illustration, but an illustration of what? As we look at this story, it sandwiches the story of Jesus cleaning out the temple. The fig tree is an example of the temple and worship that happens there - religious leaves and no fruit. Which was a perfect example of the hypocrisy of the worship of the day.
The entire temple worship setup was nothing but leaves. In fact, there is another fig tree parable that Jesus is recorded telling in Luke 13:6-9 that ties to this: “ And he told this parable:“A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground? ’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then, if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.”
It is as if this living parable Jesus is doing in Mark 11 picks up where the parable told in Luke 13 ended. A little more time has passed, still no fruit. It is time to cut it down. The temple is at last a fruitless pretense of worship.
This wasn’t a cleansing, it was a cursing. This was what the living parable earlier of the fig tree was pointing to. The temple’s time was up. They have used the temple for their gain. They have taken advantage of people so they could get ahead. It was meant to be a house of prayer. A holy place. A house of prayer for all nations, but instead Israel got the idea that they were the sole recipient of God’s blessing. They were to be an example to show the nations the One True God, instead of inviting and loving their neighbors, they hid God from them.
These people, this nation, this temple, all meant to point people to the One True God. It looked impressive from the outside. Just as the fig tree looked impressive from a distance with it sprawling leaves. Yet, there was no fruit to be found. They cared more about their public perception, about what people thought of them. Instead, they should have cared about their hearts, their actions, their neighbors.
Are we just as big of hypocrites? Are we putting our trust in our own righteous acts? Are we acting one way when people are watching and another when no one is? Are we limiting our neighbors access to Jesus because of our lives?
Jesus concludes this section of Scripture with a lesson on faith, prayer and forgiveness. The very things that the temple should have been about, Jesus now teaches on. The living parable of the fig tree brackets and interprets the temple story. Jesus didn’t just clean out the temple, He cursed it. He pronounced the end of the temple through His actions. It had failed in the divine assignment, and it would be destroyed. With no fruit, its use had come to an end. God would remove the temple in less than a generation as the Romans destroy Jerusalem and the temple.
Life in Christ Bears Fruit
These disciples have seen His mighty works and power for over 3 years now. They are still amazed at it. Peter’s reply seems to be of surprise at the power that Jesus has. And Jesus response is to say, “Trust God. Have faith in Him. You’ve seen the power, the authority, and His mighty work. So just trust.” God, the creator and sustainer of all things, can be trusted.
Have faith in His work
The fig tree and the temple were prime examples of faithlessness. The temple, which was meant to be the place where God’s people focused their faith and trust in Him, had become a monument to faithlessness. He is faithful when the religious establishment and institutions begin to fail. As you trust Him, have faith that His work is enough. That His power is enough. Prayer is not attempting to get God to change His will to fit our plans. It is a passionate pursuit to see God’s plans accomplished in us. He will give us what we need to glorify His name.
Forgive as you have been forgiven
You have put your trust in Him, for forgiveness of your sin. You have faith that He will give you what you need to bring glory to His name. Lastly, He reminds us that just as we have been forgiven, we must forgive others. We, His people, His church, His temple where His spirit resides, are to be “a house of prayer for all nations.” This means that our job isn’t to restrict people from coming to Christ because we are holding a grudge against them, but instead should be the catalyst to them coming to know Christ through our actions in forgiveness, our trust in Him and our faith in what He has done for us.
Are you trusting Him? For your future? That His work on the cross is enough? That His power in your life will sustain you and change you?
Are you bearing fruit, so the world around you can see Jesus in your life?
Have you forgiven those who once wronged you, and can you point them to Jesus?
Can you remove any and all barriers that would keep them from a genuine face-to-face encounter with the Savior of all nations?
These are questions we all must ask ourselves.
May God continue to work in us as His temples, pointing all people to Him.
Jesus is the Savior for All!
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
How was the magnificent temple in Jerusalem insufficient for the ultimate plan of God? How can the church overcome those deficiencies?
If hypocrisy always involves self-deception, how can a person find out if he is a hyprocrite?
What is the definition of fruitlessness in regards to a Christian? a church? What “fruit” does God see in you?