The Call to Discipleship in The Gospel of Mark, Day 52
On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard it. Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, ‘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 when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.
In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. Then Peter remembered and said to him, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, “Be taken up and thrown into the sea”, and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:12-26Jesus had been in the temple the day before and had seen what happened there. He is on his way back to the temple the next day and meets a fig tree. So what does a fig tree producing fruit and withering have to do with prayer and discipleship? Mark is very sparse in details and extraneous information, so there must be a purpose behind sharing the story of the fig tree.
Jesus is hungry, he sees a fig tree in leaf and went to search for fruit but couldn't find any. So he cursed the fig tree, saying "may no one ever eat fruit from you again." Jesus then enters the temple. He starts to drive our those who sold and bought in the temple. He dumps the money changers money on the ground. And overturned those who sold doves for sacrifices. He blocked the door not allowing anyone to carry anything in. Then he taught. He spoke of the temple being a house of prayer for all nations. He spoke of the turning of the temple into a den of robbers. For a day, Jesus stopped commerce. The religious authorities were not pleased and set out to destroy him. The multitudes were astonished by his teaching. Jesus then left the city that night.
In the morning on the way back into the city, hey saw the fig tree withered. Jesus then says to the disciples, "Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to the mountain, 'Be taken up and cast 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 for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand and pray, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses."
So the fig tree is withered. The temple that is supposed to produce fruit for God, will also wither. The temple is not supposed to be about money, but about prayer, about forgiveness. So why is one of the main complaints about churches it that they are always asking for money. They are always sending a letter asking for money. A church needs money to function, but would the money problem disappear if we became people of prayer, a people who forgive? Would our reputation change if prayer and not money became or focus? What if the business meetings of the church spent less time talking about money, worrying about money, and more time praying? What if the meeting were bathed in prayer rather than the short obligatory nod at the pastor to start the meeting? Jesus desires a church of faith and forgiveness. Would the fig tree blossom and bear fruit if we become communities of faith and forgiveness?
Treasure, too, you have entrusted,
gain through powers your grace conferred,
ours to use for home and kindred,
and to spread the gospel word.
Open wide our hands in sharing,
as we heed Christ's ageless call,
healing, teaching, and reclaiming,
serving you by loving all. Amen.
God's Whose Giving Know No Ending