Did You Know? –From “The Last Week,” Borg and Crossan
• In the Gospel of Mark, this moment occurs on the third day of Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem and in his life.
• It is Tuesday and the day will be covered in Mark by almost three chapters: 11:20-13:37.
• About two-thirds of Tuesday consists of conflict with temple authorities and their associates.
• The remaining warns of destruction of Jerusalem and the temple and the coming of the Son of Man soon.
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Lesson from the Withered Fig Tree
20 In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 Then Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 Jesus answered them, “Have[a] faith in God. 23 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. 24 So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received[b] it, and it will be yours.
25 “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”[c]
Some Thoughts on Today’s Reading—Pastor Pam
One of the ways that Mark writes is to group stories. In doing this, Mark’s message is understood as a series of stories that are connected. We see the story of the fig tree in Mark 11:12-14, followed by Jesus’ upending tables in the temple in 11:15-17 and then a return to the fig tree in 11:20-25.
The first two references are from the second day of Jesus’ life and the latter is at the beginning of the third day as recounted by Mark. There is message in looking at the stories of the fig tree with Jesus’ intense temple moment reported between the two. Think of these three stories as book ends on either side of the temple moment. They frame Jesus’ actions in the temple and his teachings about what is coming.
With that in mind, Jesus’ observations of the barren fig tree and later what it becomes (the withered fig tree that he cursed), refers to his observations of the temple and religious leaders who fail to bear fruit by following God.
The verses are about having faith in God and not those who lead one away from God’s truth, the power of prayer and heart of forgiveness. In the temple, Jesus encounters a harsh place that is not fruitful, and he uses these stories to show this will fall despite its might. Faith in God and faithfulness to God’s word, prayer and forgiveness endure.
Grace and Peace,