Questions for Littles: Who was hungry in v12? What did He see from afar (v13)? What didn’t He find upon it? What does Jesus say to it (v14)? Who heard Him? To where did they come in v15? Where did Jesus go? Whom did He drive out? What did He overturn? What would Jesus not allow in v16? Then what did He do to them (beginning of v17)? What did He teach them that the temple was to be called? For whom was it to be a house of prayer? When Jesus expected to find this fruit on it, what did He find instead? What did the scribes and chief priests want to do to Jesus (v18)? Why didn’t they? In the morning on their way back into the city, what did they see (v20)? What does Peter say (v21)? What does Jesus command them to have in v22? Which mountain does He tell them that God will remove if they ask (v23)? What are we to believe, regardless of what we ask in prayer (v24)? What must we always have done before we pray (v25)? What won’t God do, if we do not forgive (v26, cf. Mt 6:15, 18:35)?In the Gospel reading this week, we come upon a sobering passage about the Lord’s rejection of the Mosaic covenant.
In Judges 9:11, Jotham had referred to Israel as a fig tree, and Jesus picked up this word picture for Israel earlier in His ministry in Luke 13:6-9. There, He specifically referred to it as planted in a vineyard, picking up one of the most well-known metaphors for God’s displeasure with Israel’s unfaithfulness in Isaiah 5.
When we take those things into account, it becomes clear why vv15-19 are sandwiched on both sides by the cursing of the fig tree and the Lord’s teaching about it. Israel was supposed to have been a light to the nations. v17 quotes Isaiah 56:7 which is picking up a theme from Isaiah 45:14.
Jesus isn’t having a supernatural temper tantrum about missing out on a figgy breakfast… it wasn’t even the season for figs. What He is hungry for most of all is to do His Father’s work of gathering in the nations (cf. John 4:27-42)! The nation of Israel is the fig tree, and that is the fruit that was missing and the reason for their rejection.
What’s frightening for the apostles is that as they climb up Mt. Zion into Jerusalem, at the top of that mountain is an impressive physical structure, political structure, and religious hierarchical structure. And the powers at the top of that mountain are all trying to destroy Jesus.
The promise about the mountain is not about excavation of dirt but rather success of the great commission. Have you ever noticed that v23 refers to this mountain? It’s referring to the temple mount! How will the apostles topple it? They won’t. Jesus will, in response to their prayers.
It’s better to read v24 without supplying the direct objects, “whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive, and you will have.” These things are being asked for in a context: the mission of the church. And Christ WILL build His church!
One last thing: such dependence is essential because we come to Christ not as those who do so by works and stumble over Him, but as those who are needy of forgiveness. We cannot afford to be works-based, which means we too must be a forgiving people (v25-26). Let no man think that he is about the business of the kingdom if he shows not the forgiveness of the King!
What’s your part in the Great Commission? For what do you pray? Whom do you need to forgive?Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or HB381 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength”