Matthew 21:18-22; Mark 11:19-25; Luke 21:37-38
Matters of Faith
A few days ago, we took up our Lord’s cursing of a fig tree when he discovered it had no fruit to offer. We understood that the fig tree was a symbol of the Jew’s religious practice of that time; that is, one that looked glowing on the outside but on the inside was rotten to the core, at least among the leaders. And the proof of this was the unlawful arrest, mock trial, and ultimate crucifixion of Jesus. They did not know the very Messiah whom they said they were expecting and their own Scriptures prophesied; “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11). This in no way justifies the despicable sin of anti-Semitism; after all, the Gentiles didn’t receive him either. Christ died to save both Jew and Gentile, and to bring us together into the one body of Christ, the Church (Ephesians 2:14).
Today’s lesson takes up that same fig tree but teaches a different lesson. The disciples are amazed to see that the fig tree has withered to its roots. When they exclaim the fact to Jesus, he turns the discussion to the issue of faith. Now, the fig tree becomes a symbol of what a man or woman of faith can do. Jesus even adds, “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.” My Bible notes tell me that “moving a mountain” was a metaphor in Jewish literature for doing what was seemingly impossible” (ESV Study Bible), which seems a sound interpretation. Jesus then takes this metaphor and applies it to prayer, “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
A faithful person of God will understand these words in the context of the whole Bible. For instance, Jesus adds just after this that when we pray, we must forgive others as we have been forgiven. 1 John 5:14-15 tells us that we must ask “according to his will.” It is not my intention to water down what our Lord is saying here, only to remind the immature that Jesus gives no one a blank check to ask for anything he wants (like a Ferrari), and to remind the mature that we know of times when we have prayed, say, for the healing of a loved one, and it did not come to pass. Still, our God wants us to pray with faith, believing that He is a God who desires to bless His children. We may doubt ourselves – indeed, we should – but we should not doubt our loving Father, for it is His good pleasure to give us the Kingdom (Luke 12:32), and to give us ever more of His Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13). So cry out, “Help thou mine unbelief,” and pray to your loving Father.