Mark 11:20-33 20 As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 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. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 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.”
27 And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, 28 and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” 29 Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.” 31 And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 32 But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. 33 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
This passage related to the fig tree in Mark 11 almost seems out of place. Jesus had just cursed the fig tree after His triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. Jesus had publicly declared that He is indeed the Christ by allowing the people to worship Him. This was the same week that He would be crucified. The religious leaders would not let Him overtake their authority. But who really had the authority? Of course Jesus Christ was the one who was in control and His death occurred according to the will of God to provide for our salvation. Jesus curses a fig tree signifying Israel’s time as a blessed nation of God was coming to an end. The Gospel would now be open to the Gentiles (the foreign nations). But Jesus then shifts His attention not to the condition of Israel but to teach His disciples a lesson in relation to where they were at in their walk with God.
Jesus’ disciples wanted to rule in His Kingdom but they did not yet understand what it meant that He would die and rise again. They continued to struggle to understand how different the Kingdom of God is from the kingdoms of this world. And because of this, their faith in God was not steady and consistent. It was wavering. One moment they believed God and the next moment they doubted. One moment they understood what Jesus was saying to them and the next moment they were completely confused.
This is how every single one of us enters into the Kingdom of God. In the beginning, when we have come to a place of true repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, we don’t yet know all that Jesus knows. We will often be confused and bewildered questioning God and what He is doing. We will have doubts that creep into our heart. We will question our salvation. Although we may be standing upon the rock of our salvation we don’t feel sure in our footing. We feel like we may slip and fall to our own destruction but once you truly stand upon the Rock who is Jesus Christ you will never ultimately fall away for He will hold you fast and preserve you to the end.
Jesus had faith in God. He was absolutely confident in His relationship with God the Father. He knew the plan of salvation. He knew He was loved by God the Father and He loved Him in return. He does not doubt. He is not uncertain. He is sure and steady and unwavering. And so Jesus uses the cursing of the fig tree to remind His disciples of what they should be striving for in their relationship with God. If they had faith in God by which they did not doubt in their heart they would be able to influence creation itself. They would be able to curse a fig tree and it would wither or they could throw a mountain into the sea.
But I don’t believe Jesus is talking about rock removal without construction equipment or plant care without tools. He is speaking about spiritual obstacles that stand in our way because of our lack of faith or because of doubt in our heart. The greater the obstacle the more power or strength is needed for them to be removed. But Jesus connects the two. It is no more difficult for God to curse a fig tree than it is for Him to move a mountain. It is not dependent upon our power or spiritual strength but rather our unwavering faith in God. If we have faith in God and do not doubt there will be no spiritual obstacle that cannot be overcome.
This is directly tied to Jesus Christ’s authority. Jesus had publicly made known to all of Israel that He is indeed the Christ with His entrance into Jerusalem on the previous day. He also had shown His authority in clearing the temple of the money-changers who were cheating the people for their own profit. The chief priests and scribes and elders question His authority but in Jesus’ response He flips the tables again upon them. Jesus questions them about the baptism of John who went before Jesus preparing the way for Him. The religious authority in Jerusalem would not submit to the teaching of John the Baptist just as they would not submit to Jesus’ teaching and they were afraid of the people who did highly regard John the Baptist. And so the chief priests and scribes and elders wavered in their response. They appeared foolish in responding, “We do not know” to Jesus’ question.
There was never a question that Jesus could not answer and as we grow in faith in God we too will be able to answer more and more difficult questions. For in the Bible is contained all the answers of life. Within the Word of God is revealed the complete plan of salvation and the more we know what it says, the more faith we can and will have in God. We can come to a place in our walk with God where we do not doubt our salvation and we do not act with uncertainty in God. We can have complete confidence in Him and we can be unmoved by the fear of man.
But as we grow in confidence in God we must not disregard the importance of forgiving others and being forgiven ourselves by others. Our faith in God will be obstructed and hindered by unforgiveness. We will not be able to break through spiritual obstacles until we forgive or have been forgiven. Do you still doubt your relationship with God? Strengthen your faith by the Word of God! Grow in confidence in Him! Forgive and be forgiven! Seek Him with all your heart!
Pastor Murray Hack