Reading: Mark 11:20-25
Reflection – The fig tree
This is a day when lots happens. In the gospel according to Mark it takes us over the course of three chapters and 115 verses. Thursday will cover 60 verses and Friday will cover 47. This will be a full on day for Jesus and most of it is spent in conflict with the temple authorities and their side kicks. The day begins by taking us back to yesterday when the focus was, quite rightly, set on the clearing of the temple but before that encounter Jesus, you may remember, stopped at the fig tree and now we hear Peter is amazed that it is withered to the roots. Only days away from the end of life for Jesus and still we witness that tension of faith and understanding by those who have been closest to him. This encircling an event is common practice for Mark. Throughout the gospel he begins a story, moves to another and on completion of that one moves back to the original story. Biblical scholars do actually call it the Markan sandwich.
We have arrived at Tuesday. Jesus and his followers are returning to the city for the third day in arrow.
Remember as we journeyed through the gospel I said Jesus spent most of his time and his ministry in villages and rural settings. He only came to the city when he absolutely had to. With that in mind, I suppose going even once would be bad enough but three days in a row certainly not enjoyable as he knew the rest of the week, indeed the rest of his life, would be spent there too. There is going to be no let up for Jesus this week. Overnight the fig tree has withered. Look back to Sunday and see the crowds who welcome Jesus. Look forward to today and see the authorities who challenge him. Look further forward, to the end of the week and see how the crowds wither away also. They, like the fig tree, will bear no fruit.
Jesus has used this fig tree as a visual to underscore the verbal. If you have faith enough then whatever you ask will be done. All things are possible with God. That is not to say that praying in faith to God through Jesus is some form of magic formula, it must never we adopted as some ritual to be performed in a set manner using a set of prescribed words. To pray in faith allows us to wait and see how God will answer these and sometimes we are surprised at the outcome. We will go with Jesus on Thursday evening as he prays in the Garden of Gethsemane and there we will discover in the words of Jesus, a prayer of faith ‘Father everything is possible for you. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’ And that is the seal on any prayer of faith. Father God if it is according to your will then let it be so. Jesus will give some great teaching in the next few chapters before leaving the city in the evening again to return to his friend’s home in Bethany. By the time we return tomorrow Jesus will have been challenged over and over again. We will join with him tomorrow in that friend’s house.