Faith In God

Faith In God: Mark 11:20-25
Pastor John Weathersby
Sunday December 27, 2020

This story is odd maybe on its surface. We’ve talked about how being a) distanced and b) western can be the perfect storm for missing the context and there fore purpose of scripture so lets work on both individually as we walk up to this passage in Mark’s Gospel.

James White would say that Matthew Telescopes what Mark expands out. So in understanding this we see the scene from last week that mark is trying to communicate to the reader AFTER discussing the cleansing. With texts like this we can be too Distanced and Western – so let’s address that as we jump in.


There are a few ways we can be distanced. Have you ever seen a fig tree, heck have you ever seen a fig?

When IS their season? We don’t know – but, everyone in Biblical times would have known what that was. It would be like asking one of us today; what time a chick fil a opened on Sunday(s), we ALL know the answer, right?

Would could miss texts which a Jewish mind would be brought to through some keywords and context.

I’ve seen this passage show up in debates in the past in ways that the hi-light the missed context(s) above. The basic premise is that Jesus could not be Messiah AND be ignorant of when a plant would be in season showing him to be “ignorant”.

First our ears aren’t as attuned to scripture as the cultural Jewish hearer. IN one of my favorite books of all scripture Hosea is one of those examples. Imagine the Jewish mind and ear, listening to this text consider this:

Micah 7:1–6 (ESV)
Wait for the God of Salvation
1 Woe is me! For I have become
as when the summer fruit has been gathered,
as when the grapes have been gleaned:
there is no cluster to eat,
no first-ripe fig that my soul desires.
2  The godly has perished from the earth,
and there is no one upright among mankind;
they all lie in wait for blood,
and each hunts the other with a net.
3  Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well;
the prince and the judge ask for a bribe,
and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul;
thus they weave it together.
4  The best of them is like a brier,
the most upright of them a thorn hedge.
The day of your watchmen, of your punishment, has come;
now their confusion is at hand.
5  Put no trust in a neighbor;
have no confidence in a friend;
guard the doors of your mouth
from her who lies in your arms;
6  for the son treats the father with contempt,
the daughter rises up against her mother,
the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.

Haunting, right? Now, consider the Book of Hosea… a prophet commanded to marry a prostitute, who continues in her ways and is pursued by that prophet as she continually turns to hollow promises away from Hosea’s love.

Hosea 2:10–13 (ESV)
10  Now I will uncover her lewdness
in the sight of her lovers,
and no one shall rescue her out of my hand.
11  And I will put an end to all her mirth,
her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths,
and all her appointed feasts.
12  And I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees,
of which she said,
‘These are my wages,
which my lovers have given me.’
I will make them a forest,
and the beasts of the field shall devour them.
13  And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals
when she burned offerings to them
and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry,
and went after her lovers
and forgot me, declares the Lord.

With some of the distance gap shrunken with with our western ears sharpened lets get ready to see that the arc of today’s story leads us to the cross.

So Marks ordering of the story and presenting of this story in his gospel we’ll see Jesus saying “learn the lesson of the fig tree” in Mark 13:28.

Mark 13:28–29 (ESV)
The Lesson of the Fig Tree
28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.
29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.

Jesus is teeing up the destruction of the Jerusalem temple and symbolically the ushering in of the age of the Church on His apostles and disciples. We are now days from Jesus crucifixion Jesus is preparing His disciples for Kingdom focused life in His absence. Prayer will be central to this; and this entire series of events from the cleansing of the temple to the cursing of the tree is designed to show them the wholeness of the believers life.

The cleansing wasn’t about separating believing life from commerce; per se as scripture was about harmonizing all aspects of life and Godliness, rather it was about restoring a focus on and reverence for God. So as he continues there, Mark’s presentation of these events captures the essence of all that Jesus was teaching in these literal, final days. They needed to grow their own, faith in God.

Mark 11:20–26
The Lesson from the Withered Fig Tree
20 As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots.

Think back to

Mark 11:12–14 (ESV)
Jesus Curses the Fig Tree
12 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry.
13 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.
14 And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

That odd, aside, that “His disciples heard”… now comes full center and crowns the cleansing of the temple.

21 And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.”

Is times like this that I wish the scripture says that Jesus looked at him and said, ‘whoa crazy, that worked’ – but He didn’t. Verse 22 he says,

22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God.

Remember we said earlier, they’re days out from Jesus crucifixion – they’ll need faith in God. When Jesus is crucified, resurrected and ascends to be with God and they’ll feel, alone. What would the remedy be, faith, hope and prayer.

Hebrews 11:1–10 (ESV)
By Faith
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
2 For by it the people of old received their commendation.
3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.
5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.
6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.
10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.


Jesus continues:

23 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.

Remember what they’d just seen. Jesus in verse 12-14 approaches this leafy fig tree. Some commentators talk of figs which in fact DID grow out of the normal season, others point to an early season fig that grew in but wasn’t ripe when the tree was leafy, others still dial in and say it wasn’t unreasonable to expect a fully leafy tree to have figs, but riddle me this.. perhaps here, if we apply a “reasonable person test” the reasonable person would fail if they looked to Jesus actions, now days before His crucifixion and through man this is about figs and why didn’t Jesus know when fix season was – was He some kind of silly goose? Remember Jesus will later talk about the seasonality of figs in Mark 13:28.

Mark 13:28 (ESV)
The Lesson of the Fig Tree
28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.

And so the reasonable person could see that like Micah and Hosea and so many other passages about fruit and vines and growth, are about having evidences of internal truth fruitfulness in life. If you’re keeping up with our December Proverbs reading perhaps you saw today Proverbs 27:18-19

Proverbs 27:18–19 (ESV)
18  Whoever tends a fig tree will eat its fruit,
and he who guards his master will be honored.
19  As in water face reflects face,
so the heart of man reflects the man.

Heat of man, reflects the man.

Jesus was showing that no faithfulness was living out in the temple life, there was foliage outward signs of belief but no fruit of real faith – as John would say, bear fruit keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8).

Think on Isaiah 29:13 or James 2:14-26

Isaiah 29:13–14 (ESV)
13  And the Lord said:
“Because this people draw near with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me,
and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,
14  therefore, behold, I will again
do wonderful things with this people,
with wonder upon wonder;
and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”

James 2:14-26 is your homework.
Faith Without Works Is Dead
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,
16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[a] is that?
17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 
20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?
22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works;
23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.
24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?
26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Jesus’ cursed the tree, cleansed the temple, and now they see the tangible lesson of judgment on this now sick withered from the roots up, tree. Jesus only negative miracle which stands out as a warning to His disciples and an encouragement to His disciple-apostles to trust in God (in God plan, God’s power, God’s good judgment) and to pursue a life of fruitful life for God.

Jesus is teaching the disciples to have faith in God. Is there something that’s needed something that’s in God’s will and plan, is there something that’s in the way of God’s plan for you… the answer is NO. Bodies of water, no those are splittable, access to drinking water, no that can come from a rock, natural diseases no those are curable – Jesus prepares them for His physical absence by giving them an absolutely radical trust in God.

Again, the reasonable person would allow figures of speech –

“I have a mountain of work to do”, “I’m so hungry I could eat of mountain of those chips”, Dr. Martian Luther King said, “I’ve been to the mountain top” had he, did he lie? What is Jesus saying – he’s saying what he concluded and a reasonable person sees that, “Have faith in God”

James 1:6–8 (ESV)
6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;
8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

I ask, and don’t doubt that if God if for me, no one can be against me – I trust His power wholly and know His will cannot be thwarted, if I’ve prayed and concluded no my will but your will, I trust it.

24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Is it because of the strength of their faith, no it’s the object of their faith. Let me say that again, the strength of their faith isn’t what brings about prayer… rather that God’s good perfect plan will not be thwarted by “simple” things – pray to God.

John 14:13–14 (ESV)
13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

Consistent with Jesus plan, kingdom, and will… will be done. Our submitted will if praying something that’s counter to God’s plan and will knows that..

Matthew 7:8–11 (ESV)
8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?
10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?
11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Lets hear James on the matter:

James 4:14–16 (ESV)
14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

The disciples needed to grow their own, faith in God. So too do we, and we too would do well to lean the lesson of the fig tree.

Believe God. Believe God what – believe God’s will is going to be accomplished.
Believe that God sent His son Jesus as your savior.
Believe that Christ left behind a Church to provide a harmonized living faith – in your life your faith can be exercised and grow as you
Believe God and bear fruit.

Hebrews 11:1
By Faith
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Will you believe on Jesus that not even a mountain like obstacle will thwart God’s will? Live a prayerful life and “have faith in God” and in having faith bear fruits worthy of your repentance Heart of man, reflects the man; this is the lesson of the fig tree have a life marked by leaves AND fruit, it’s the lesson of the fig tree – looking back on a plant dead from the roots up, they understood.

Pray, Observe, Apply.

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