Background: Taken out of context, the story of Jesus’ cursing the fig tree sounds harsh, but reading the whole chapter of Mark 11 puts that incident into perspective.
Jesus had set His face toward Jerusalem, knowing this began the journey toward the cross. As He rode into town on a donkey, people laid a path of palm branches and their own cloaks, shouting, “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the LORD!”
After entering the Temple and looking around, Jesus and His followers went back to Bethany for the night. As they headed toward the Temple again the next morning, Jesus saw a fig tree already in leaf, which indicated fruit but none existed. Not only did this become an obstacle to His hunger, the tree had become showy, rather than fruitful, and so He said, “No one will ever eat fruit from you again.”
Jesus then entered the Temple and drove out money-changers and merchants whose booths blocked people from getting through the area to worship. Quoting scripture, Jesus explained, “My house shall be called a house of prayer!” But the showy booths had turned the Temple into something else, making obstacles for people who had come for genuine worship. Those people found what they came for, however, as Jesus stayed to teach, and they hung onto His words.
That night as Jesus and His followers started back to Bethany, they saw what had happened to the fig tree. Called out for showiness that belied fruitlessness, the tree had withered to its roots! When the disciples commented, Jesus responded with this vital word on prayer:
Have faith in God!
I tell you truly
if you say to this mountain,
‘Be plucked up and thrown into the sea,’
and do not doubt in your heart
remove obstacles of any size,
it shall happen as you say.
And so I say,
ask in prayer,
and you will receive.
And whenever you take a stand
forgive whatever you have
and your Father Who Is
will also forgive you
but if you don’t forgive others,
that will become an
to your Father’s forgiving you.
©2013, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. Prayer-a-phrased poem comes from today’s Daily Bible Reading in Mark 11:22-26.