Jesus on faith, forgiveness and the fig tree - 30 March 2021
By Louise Gevers
- Mark 11:22-25
Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. I assure you that whoever tells this hill to get up and throw itself in the sea and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. For this reason I tell you: when you pray and ask for something, believe that you have received it, and you will be given whatever you ask for. And when you stand and pray, forgive anything you may have against anyone, so that your Father in heaven will forgive the wrongs you have done.”
When we moved to the Western Cape, I took as many of my favourite plants with me as I could fit in my car as I feared they might be damaged in the Removal truck; I then left the others for the new owners of our house to enjoy. I would have left them all had I known that the trip would hold the experience of sub zero temperatures at our overnight stop and that two days later my defrosted orchids and violets would be battling to survive in a newly-constructed Plant Hospital in our temporary accommodation.
I still have visions of the rotted orchid roots, amongst green ones, that I had to cut off in my attempt to save them by re-potting, deeply saddened that I might never see their beautiful blooms again.
It was the roots that were the problem with the fig tree too. Nothing can live and bear fruit with dead roots.
Early Tuesday morning of that “Holy week”, as Jesus and His disciples passed the barren fig tree that He had cursed the day before, Peter marvelled at how the tree had died overnight. Jesus’ words, “No-one shall ever eat figs from you again!” (Mark 11:14) had “withered (it) from the roots” (V.20). Perhaps Jesus, with this act of judgment, was stressing the seriousness of spiritual unfruitfulness in religious people who claim piousness, yet show unbelief, as Israel’s spiritual leaders were doing by not recognising and accepting their long-awaited Messiah.
Then using the withered tree as a catalyst, Jesus went on to teach His disciples about faith.
Jesus focuses them firstly on God’s greatness and power to act, “nothing is impossible with God” Luke 1:37 NIV; then He emphasises that by believing they can do what seems impossible: to tell a mountain to, “Go, throw yourself in the sea”. (V.23) But He emphasises the need to “believe that (they) have received it” (V.24) and to, “forgive anything that (they) may have against anyone, so that (their) Father in heaven will forgive the wrongs (they) have done.” (V.25)
Jesus shows that faith is not limited, but for it to be effective it has to be real; we must believe in God and be in the right spirit when we approach Him. Are we not making a mockery of faith when we believe that God will answer our prayer but don’t honour Him by obeying His commands? Can we ask for forgiveness but refuse to forgive others? We would be saying our own desires are more important than God’s commands. Jesus emphasizes the importance of being right with God for effective faith: He forgives us if we forgive others.
True faith, even “the size of a mustard seed” Matthew 17:20 grows from the pure heart forgiveness brings.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, “how I love to do your will …I keep your teaching in my heart.” Purify my heart and grow my faith. Amen (Psalm 40:8)