Summary: God cares about prayer and all peoples.
The Primacy of Prayer
Rev. Brian Bill
September 9-10, 2017
Play clip from Jesus Video.
Some struggle with this depiction of Jesus because He seems angry and harsh. After all, how does this line up with the Charles Wesley hymn: “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, look upon a little child?”
This week I conducted an unscientific survey on the Edgewood Facebook page (If you’re not on this page, check it out – over 1500 people are following it). I simply asked this question: “Do you see Jesus as gentle or as judge?” I’ll share the results in a moment but first let me conduct the poll right here with a simple show of hands. How many of you see Jesus as gentle? How many view Him as judge? How many of you see Him as both?
We’re prone to pick one and ignore the other but Scripture doesn’t allow us to do that.
• Truth and grace
• Lord and Savior
• Judge and gentle
• Holy and humble
• Powerful and patient
• Fearsome and friend
• Awesome and approachable
• Sovereign and sympathizer
• Lion and lamb
We need the complete picture of Christ, not just the comfortable caricatures that we prefer. In our penchant for promoting only the characteristics of Christ that we like, we have marginalized His majesty. Some of us avoid those passages where He seems untamable and unpredictable, especially when His words make us wince and His actions make us uncomfortable.
Ok, here’s the Facebook poll results – the vast majority of the 40 responses said that Jesus is both gentle and judge.
We’re going to see today that Jesus not only tips over tables in the Temple, He also curses a fruitless fig tree. Both of these incidents teach us about the judgment of Jesus on the nation of Israel but also serve as a word of warning to us. Jesus is Servant and Savior and He is Sovereign.
Our text comes after the events of Palm Sunday. Let’s look at Mark 11:11: “And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.” The phrase “looked around,” means that as the Lord of the temple, He examined everything closely. That night he left Jerusalem and went to the neighboring suburb of Bethany, where He and the disciples spent the night with Lazarus, Mary and Martha. According to John 11:18, Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem.
Listen to verses 12-14: “On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard it.”
Did you catch that Jesus was hungry? This shows that He is fully man and fully God – we also know that He experienced thirst, weariness, pain, rejection and loneliness. The word “hungry” means, “famished.” While figs are not all that popular in our country, figs were, and still are, a preferred fruit in the Middle East. Bethany was located right next to Bethphage, which means, “House of Figs.”
There are a few things to know about fig trees:
1. The fig tree is a figure for Israel and is mentioned over sixty times in the Bible. Jesus first saw Nathanael under a fig tree (John 1:48).
2. Fig trees grow to a height of 10-20 feet and have very large leaves (Adam and Eve covered up with these leaves).
3. Figs are sweet in taste (I don’t care for them).
4. To “sit under one’s own fig tree” was a saying of peace and prosperity.
5. Fig trees are the most fruitful of all trees, producing fruit as many as three times a year. Figs were often used as “first fruits” brought to the temple.
6. Fig fruit comes before leaves appear so that a fig tree in leaf would be expected to have some fruit. A fig tree in full leaf in April would have been covered with little nodules that were satisfying to eat. Since this tree had no early fruit, it was a sign that there would be no sweet fruit when the time for harvest arrived.
7. If there were leaves but no fruit it would mean that disease was spreading and death was on the way.
In verse 14 Jesus pronounces a curse on the tree using a double negative: “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” Just as the fig tree had the promise of fruit but was only filled with leaves; God’s people had the outward show but had no fruit. Israel looked alive but was actually dead. And because they had failed to be fruitful, Jesus judged them. Some have said that Jesus was angry because He was hungry. Actually, He was angry because He is holy! And because He is holy, He will judge fruitless hypocrites who have every opportunity to bear fruit.