Challenge Talk: Mark 11:12-25

Day 28
March 17, 2018
“Challenging Teaching”
Mark 11:12-25

OK – it’s the commute into the city in the morning. You know what mood you’re in, coming from home to work. He’s hungry. You get it. There are some meetings ahead that don’t appeal much. You’ve been there. He sees a fig tree – a snack place. Nothing! He curses it – never again! This is another Markan sandwich – we will cut to the temple now, but will be back to the fig tree before today is over.

The testy mood of Jesus on this day continues – driving the money-changers out of the temple – defending the ritual purity of the temple, just when we began to read him as anti-kosher. What’s he mad about? Low blood sugar? They’ve made the temple a den of robbers – 

OK, now it’s clearer why the religious leaders will be mad at him – he likes the church, but not the staff. I know the feeling. You’ve heard the tune. They want to kill him – they are afraid of him. I hope that’s not a standard clergy response to critics – I hope it’s not mine. But people do listen…

And off we go like commuters, at the end of a day doing your business, Jesus and the disciples head back out to Bethany. The next morning, on the commute back into town, they pass yesterday’s fig tree – withered to roots. Peter says – hey, look, the snack bar you cursed is out of business!

Mark gives us Jesus saying that you can do anything with faith – apparently including curses in which you have faith. This power to call in air strikes from God is scary – remember the movie “Bruce Almighty”? Rent it, if you don’t.
If that bit scared you – ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ – then thank God for what Mark tacks on next: when you are praying, instead of calling in an airstrike with a curse, forgive. If you forgive, God may forgive you. God knows we need it! 

On the following day, 
when they came from Bethany,
 he was hungry.

Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf,
he went to see whether perhaps
he would find anything on it.

When he came to it, 
he found nothing but leaves,
for it was not the season for figs.

He said to it, 
‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’

And his disciples heard it.

Then they came to Jerusalem.

And he entered the temple
and began to drive out
those who were selling
and those who were buying
in the temple,
and he overturned the tables
 of the money-changers
and the seats
of those who sold doves;
and he would not allow anyone
 to carry anything through the temple.

He was teaching
 and saying,
 ‘Is it not written,
“My house shall be called
a house of prayer
for all the nations”?

But you have made it
 a den of robbers.’

And when the chief priests
and the scribes
heard it,
they kept looking
for a way to kill him;
 for they were afraid of him,
because the whole crowd
was spellbound by his teaching.

And when evening came, 
Jesus and his disciples
went out of the city.

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, 
if you have anything
against anyone;
so that your Father in heaven
may also forgive you
 your trespasses.’