Summary: The solution to any problem in your life is simply this: Have faith in God. The answer to any need in your life is: Have faith in God.
People tend to remember short pithy slogans. If you’ve heard these, fill in the last word: “A miss is as good as a mile.” Or “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Or “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Or “Don’t put all your eggs in the same basket.” Those are so short and pithy that they’re easy to remember.
In today’s scripture, Jesus is going to provide the best short slogan ever uttered. It only has four words. He says, “Have Faith in God.” Will you say that aloud with me? “Have Faith in God.”
We’re studying the last week of the earthly life of Christ. Each day, Jesus and His disciples walked from Bethany, about a mile from Jerusalem. They walked over the Mt. of Olives and down the trail toward Jerusalem. I’ve walked on the same trail dozens of times; it’s paved now. He would enter Jerusalem for the day and return to Bethany every night.
We’re going back to the scripture from the last message to pick up a detail we skipped. So let’s pick up the story in Mark 11:12 and remember this is Monday morning.
“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.”
After this Jesus arrived in Jerusalem and cleaned out God’s house of the filth and deception. Now, let’s skip down to Mark 11:20 to read the “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say,
“In the morning, (this would be Tuesday morning) as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
In this passage there are three great truths to be learned about figs, faith, and forgiveness. As I got into this message I realized I had so much to say about figs and faith that I will wait until the next message to talk about forgiveness. I hope you’ll forgive me for that! Jesus knows He will face a cross at the end of this week, so He is using this time for some intense teaching. So, in this message we’re going to examine two powerful word pictures: a fig tree and a mountain.
I. A BARREN FIG TREE: A LESSON ABOUT FRUITFULNESS
Jesus was hungry, which reminds us that Jesus experienced the same human needs we have. He walked over to a fig tree to have a fig breakfast. The tree was full of leaves, but there were no figs. The Bible says it wasn’t the time for figs, so why was Jesus disappointed? In Israel the fig tree is different from the fig bushes we have here in East Texas.
In Israel, a fig tree produces two kinds of figs. There are small pre-figs that grow when the leaves sprout. These are hard and bitter. But after they fall off they are replaced with larger, riper figs. So even though it wasn’t the time for the ripe figs, this tree should have had some of the small pre-figs. This explains Jesus’ statement. When He saw a leafy fig tree with no pre-figs, he pronounced a judgment on it. He said, “Nobody will eat figs from you.”
The fig tree was guilty of false advertising, leaves but no figs. Of course, being God, Jesus knew all this. He didn’t curse the fig tree in anger. He just evaluated it. A fruit tree that doesn’t produce fruit can’t be called a fruit tree. The judgment Jesus pronounced upon the tree led to it wither overnight. We learn two valuable object lessons from this miracle. One is literal and the other is figurative. No pun intended.
A. A NATIONAL APPLICATION: Israel would soon wither and die
The fig tree represented the nation of Israel. The nation should have been producing fruit for God, but they were all religion, and no life. By making the fig tree wither Jesus was predicting that the nation of Israel would soon be destroyed. Over the next few days Jesus was going to be in constant debate with the Jewish religious mafia. Outwardly, they were hyper-righteous, but inwardly they were dead. We know this is the immediately application of this event because Jesus gives the moral of the fig tree story in Matthew 21:43 where He says plainly, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.”