Mark 11:20-25 – The Lesson from the Withered Fig Tree
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.
“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”
So, I don’t have any pictures of a withered magnolia blossom to go with the magnolia picture from a few days ago, but I do have this one that reflects a time when one of the blooms was on its way out. Not close to what seems to have happened to the fig tree here – withered to its roots – but its the closest I’ve got right now.
As I read this today, I really struggled initially with how this connects with what has come before. At first glance, it feels like Jesus was just being spiteful – I’m going to curse the tree, turn over the tables in the temple, and then when asked about the withered tree a day or so later, I’m going to teach on something that seems disconnected entirely. I dug into some of the commentaries that I have and didn’t see a whole lot that seemed to explain the way that this part was connected too much. After chewing on this for a while this morning, what feels to me here is a message about God’s power – God’s power that is greater than anything else. In the last few sections, we have seen the power of God at work in a wide variety of ways – over nature, over demons, over disease, over human structures. Anything. I hear that as an encouragement as well as a strong challenge. An encouragement that there is nothing beyond what God can handle. But a challenge on the other side about how we don’t have the power that we necessarily believe that we do. God can do more than we can ask or imagine – that’s wonderful and a bit scary too.