WEEK TWO, DAY FOUR, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE
WEEK TWO THEME: PRAYER
DAY FOUR THEME: CONFIDENCE IN PRAYER
SCRIPTURE: MARK 11:12-24
THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD:
“The next day, after leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. From far away, he noticed a fig tree in leaf, so he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing except leaves, since it wasn’t the season for figs. So he said to it, ‘No one will ever again eat your fruit!’ His disciples heard this.
They came to Jerusalem. After entering the temple, he threw out those who were selling and buying there. He pushed over the tables used for currency exchange and the chairs of those who sold doves. He didn’t allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He taught them, ‘Hasn’t it been written. “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?” But you’ve turned it into a hideout for crooks.’ The chief priest and legal experts heard this and tried to find a way to destroy him. They regarded him as dangerous because the whole crowd was enthralled at his teaching.
When it was evening, Jesus and his disciples went outside the city. Early in the morning, as Jesus and his disciples were walking along, they saw the fig tree withered from the root up. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, look how the fig tree you cursed has dried up.’ Jesus responded to them, ‘Have faith in God! I assure you that whoever says to this mountain, “Be lifted up and thrown into the sea” – and doesn’t waver but believes that what is said will really happen – it will happen.
Therefore I say to you, whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you will receive it, and it will be so for you. And whenever you stand up to pray, if you have something against anyone, forgive so that you Father in heaven may forgive you your wrongdoings.'”
THANKS BE TO GOD!
SOAKING IT IN:
This is an interesting grouping of “Jesus stories”. In twelve quick verses, we experience several sides of Jesus – hunger, cursing the fig tree, overturning the money exchangers in the temple, and then the example of moving mountains forgiveness.
On both sides of the event of Jesus entering the temple and expelling the work of the moneychangers and thieves is the simple fig tree. The first words in verse twelve is the statement that Jesus was hungry. There are many recorded events of Jesus sharing all kinds of meals in all kinds of places, with all kinds of folks for all kinds of reasons, but here, Jesus is hungry…that very physical, very human basic need for food, replenishment, energy. We don’t know if Jesus is already “in a mood – super focused” (after all he is on his way to the temple to right the wrongs of the moneychangers) but when he comes to a simple fig tree that is in full leaf and finds no figs there (because it is not the season for figs) he is quick to curse the fig tree judging it forever useless before moving on to the temple.
It is obvious that Jesus’ hunger does not stop him from doing the next thing, and it is obvious that Jesus doesn’t concern himself with lots of supplies should he get hungry, he is accustomed to finding what he needs along the way. This fig tree simply did not provide the desired outcome for Jesus’ hunger. For Jesus to curse the fig tree for not having fruit when it is not even the season for its fruit seems a bit extreme for me. There must be more to the action than than.
In the Kingdom of God, the people of God must always be about the business of bearing fruit. There is no “on and off” season. The Kingdom of God is forever blooming, forever producing, forever ready for the need of the moment.
It is obvious that when Jesus and crew they get to temple evil is “in season” full time. The moneychangers in the guise of simplifying temple sacrificial needs, are stealing from the common people – totally changing the intent of the temple from a house of prayer to a den of thieves. Evil is always at work thinking and producing more and more ways to spread evil. The fig tree has the luxury of having a season, but evil never stops.
I think the telling part of this action with the fig tree comes later when Jesus and the twelve again pass the fig tree – now withered from the root up – and Peter remembers that Jesus had cursed it. With this observation, Jesus teaches about the power of prayer – the ability to move mountains. He stresses the importance of believing in what we pray for – believe that we will receive it. And he also specifies the need for forgiveness as unforgiveness is a direct obstacle to prayer.
Jesus does not explain why he cursed the fig tree for being unfruitful in an unfruitful time of its earthly existence. But Jesus does use the incident to lead his twelve apostles into a larger understanding of Kingdom Life. In God’s Kingdom there is an ongoing cycle of prayer, forgiveness, believing, acting, then repeat. A nightly prayer or a meal prayer is valuable to helping us remember the Source of all that we have and Who holds all our days. But the message here goes deeper as we become Kingdom people, our prayers are the essential element of sustaining and thriving and being ever ready for use whenever the need arises – whether “in season” or not!
Staying alert and ready is ever more and more important in days like these. One piece of a song keeps running through my head these days from the hymn, God of Grace and God of Glory. My particular verse prayer is “Grant us wisdom, Grant us courage, for the living of these days! For the living of these days.”
Lord we need all of you in our living to continue to face the challenges of this life. We are in a season of chaos and confusion in our country, and around the world. Lord we know you turn chaos into order…Intervene through your Holy Spirit using your Kingdom Dwellers in wonderful ways. Amen.
Here are all the lyrics, I have found them most helpful…
GOD OF GRACE AND GOD OF GLORY
God of grace and God of glory, on thy people pour thy power;
crown the ancient church’s story; bring its bud to glorious flower.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of thls hour,
for the facing of thls hour.
Lo! the hosts of evil round us, scorn thy Christ, assail his ways!
From the fears that long have bound us, free our hearts to love and praise.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the living of these days,
for the living of these days.
Cure thy children’s warring madness, bend our pride to thy control;
shame our wanton, selfish gladness, rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, lest we miss thy kingdom’s goal,
lest we miss thy kingdom’s goal.
Set our feet on lofty places; gird our lives that they may be
armoured with all Christlike graces, pledged to set all captives free.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, that we fail not them nor thee,
that we fail not them nor thee!
Save us from weak resignation to the evils we deplore;
let the search for thy salvation be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, serving thee whom we adore,
serving thee whom we adore.