We Have Come This Far By Faith
Part Four: Dealing With Your Mountains: Leaves or Figs?
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Mark 11:12 Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany (modern Al-Eizariya, Palestine), He was hungry. 13 And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” And His disciples heard it.
20 Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. 21 And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.”
22 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. [“Be faithful to God and fruitful. Don’t be like this tree, putting out leaves, but showing no fruit.”]
23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. 25 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
In this text, Jesus gave a faith lesson. He talked about dealing with mountain sized obstacles when he said, “Have faith in God.” Having faith in God, asking for things when you pray, and believing you receive them, you will have them.
This particular lesson on faith is different the the one in Matthew 17:20 where he said , “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
In the teaching from Matthew Jesus attached a qualifier to it when he said, “his kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” As he dealt with the inability of the disciples to heal of boy brought to them with spirit of infirmity that looked like epilepsy.
In both of these lessons, Jesus taught about the nature of faith in God as well as something within the believer that was necessary.
Faith in God is not all about getting stuff, it is about doing God’s will. Don’t forget this statement:
Faith begins where the will of God is known.
The will of God is never found first in wanting things for your enjoyment. The will of God is always connected to His purpose and your character.
Jesus teaching in Mark 11 is dealing with personal character and doing the will of God.
Important question: Why did Jesus curse the fig tree, if it was not the season for figs?
At this point in late spring in Israel and Palestine, most fig trees had not yet developed mature fruit (Mark 11:13). But this particular tree draws Jesus’s attention because it already has a full covering of leaves. It’s an early bloomer. Its foliage signaled that it should have early figs.
With that expectation, Jesus inspects the tree. He is immediately disappointed. The tree is all leaves, no fruit. There was expectation, but no satisfaction.
He said, Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” And His disciples heard it.
It appears shocking that Jesus cursed the tree and made it wither from the roots, never to yield fruit again. This seems stunningly out of character for Jesus
What should we learn from this peculiar scene?
On the surface, it’s an object lesson on the power of faithful prayer and how to have faith (Matt. 21:20–22). But more is going on here. The fig tree cursing when understood as a parable, is also a sober warning for us today.
Fruitlessness leads to judgment.
Throughout the Old Testament, Israel is described as God’s vineyard, tree, or planting. Fruitfulness is one of God’s priorities
Exodus 23:19 The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God.
Isaiah 5:1, Now let me sing to my Well-beloved A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: My Well-beloved has a vineyard On a very fruitful hill. 2 He dug it up and cleared out its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, And also [b]made a winepress in it; So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, But it brought forth wild grapes. 3 “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, Judge, please, between Me and My vineyard. 4 What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it?
Jesus said in John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you[b] will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples
When he created Adam and Eve, He said, “Be fruitful and multiply.”
Being fruitful in doing God’s will is part of human nature and God’s purpose.
In our relationship with God: as his own special planting, it is His will to yield spiritual fruit as his covenant people.
Psalm 1:3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.
Jeremiah 17:8, For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not [a]fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.
Think about your own figs.
When the disciples ask Jesus to explain what just transpired, he pivots and talks about prayer and forgiveness.
Jesus said in Mark 11:24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. 25 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
Thus the fig tree cursing was not just about a fig tree, it was historical Israel. And it is also about us. It’s about all the people of God throughout time.
This is a sobering passage, this passage that reminds us of this truth: A follower of Christ, a true Christian, by definition must produce spiritual fruit —even if only small early figs).
In our lives we can show “leaves,” but no fruit. Things in people and churches can appear to be big and flourishing, but it may only be leaves and not figs. That does not please the Lord.
Your leaves can fool you. What will the Lord find upon close inspection? Will he find only leaves? Or will he find figs, too?
In our lives, there may be no fruit of holiness, no intimacy with God, and no faith serving, giving, loving, and honoring.
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