Read: Mark 11:12-25
Reflect: Gail had purchased some potted bushes, but despite her best efforts they kept dying. “I paid a lot of money for the plants and had tried everything to bring them back to life but it wasn’t working.” Gail decided on a solution involving a can of spray paint. She sprayed the leaves until they looked like new. Gail said: “It turned out perfectly. ‘My friends have said that they wouldn’t have known any different!” Gail has decided that spray paint is her gardening choice of the future.
Gail’s spray paint might have been the only option for the fig tree mentioned in Mark 11. According to Google, a fig tree has two kinds of figs — ones called “pre-figs,” which look like figs but are not figs, and which always appear first. If a tree does not have the pre-figs, it will not have real figs later on. In Mark 11, it wasn’t the season for regular figs, but the leaves indicated it was the season for these little nubs, or the pre-figs. However, this tree didn’t have any nubs whatsoever. From a distance it may have looked okay but the absence of the pre-figs meant it was beyond resuscitation. By cursing the tree, Jesus simply stated the obvious, that it was a dead tree. Spray paint only goes for appearances and cannot bring a tree back to life.
That’s the same thing Jesus saw when he entered the temple. It was filled with people preparing for Passover and the place looked alive. But it wasn’t alive to God. It was like the fig tree—full of leaves but without fruit; without even the potential of fruit. The Temple had become a place where it was hard to find God. 600 years before, Jeremiah wrote: “Don’t be fooled into thinking that you will never suffer because the Temple is here. It’s a lie! Do you really think you can steal, murder, commit adultery, lie, and burn incense to Baal and all those other new gods of yours, and then come here and stand before me in my Temple and chant, “We are safe!”—only to go right back to all those evils again? Don’t you yourselves admit that this Temple, which bears my name, has become a den of thieves? Surely, I see all the evil going on there. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (Jer. 7:8-11). The Temple had been converted into a mausoleum of unholy worship. The spiritual fruit love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control could not be produced by a barren religion, but only by a relationship with the Savior. During the last week of our Lord’s earthly ministry the multitudes thought that Jesus was coming as King to free them from the tyranny of Rome. Instead, Jesus led a surprise attack against the religious establishment when He attacked their religious hypocrisy. The fig tree symbolized the plight of those spiritually dead in Judaism.
Jesus dug further into the heart when he discussed the subject of faith. He connected faith with the idea of removing mountains, difficulties of the heart. Often, a hard and unforgiving heart is bigger than any mountain. It takes faith to obey Jesus’ command of “Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, you are to set things right first, and then continue on in prayer.” (Mark 11:25)
Apply: Ray Stedman writes: “That is why Jesus puts his finger on this one thing. The nation Israel lost its life because it would not forgive the Gentiles, the Romans, who had offended and grieved it. Instead, it gathered its robes of self-righteousness about it and looked with pride up to God and said, “I thank God I am not like these other people.” God says that is what ends the life of a nation. That is what ends the life of a church. And that is what ends the spiritual life of an individual, cuts him off. May God help us, then, to forgive one another. This is no option, nor is it a luxury; it is a necessity of life.” May we never need Gail’s spray paint to disguise the condition of our hearts and may we take the step of faith to obey.