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With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation
Mark 11 12-25 The depths and the truths of prayer
We find that in the narrative, Jesus has returned with much publicity to the Temple for The Passover period.
We are told on entering the Temple He has a look around but as its late retires to Bethany.
The next morning on the way to Jerusalem we are told that Jesus was hungry and He goes to a Fig tree in leaf but when he gets there, there is no fruit.
So Jesus curses the tree.
On reaching Jerusalem and the temple Jesus turns over the tables - again [see John 2]
Incidentally the reason that Jesus turns over the tables is not so much that secular processes are taking place but more so that visitors were being robbed in applied taxes to them.
Also more importantly as we shall see together, the spiritual question of Israel and the return of its Messiah is dropped from a great height.
All Jews had to pay a Temple Tax.
The TT ran out at about 2 days average wages.
The form of payment was the shekel and any visitors, of whom were many at the passover, would have to change their monies at the temple into shekels.
To do this , to both Jew and gentile, the money exchangers charged an extortionate tax themselves of about 25% again.
As all of this was taking place in the ‘courts of the gentiles’ the Pharisees saw no harm in raising as much money as they could.
As usual, the religious saw a financial opportunity.
There were areas that gentiles and women were not allowed at pain of death and so money lenders etc were excluded from the areas less occupied.
It was into this atmosphere in the shadow of the cursed fig tree that Jesus stands up for righteousness. He quotes from Isaiah 56:7 ‘these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.
Jeremiah 7:11 ‘Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord’
Jesus stays with His disciples till evening teaching to the crowds.
Then we return to the fig tree…..
We are told that upon leaving the Temple on the road they encounter again the fig tree that’s now withered.
The acting out of a parable is what we see and the fig tree represents the people of Israel and its failure to bear fruit in the return of its Messiah.
I know I have preached this before to you and don’t want to go there again needlessly.
It is the shockwave of what comes next that I want to address today; both the context in which we find Jesus and His disciples and the position we find ourselves.
It is on the back of the failure of Israel to ‘bear fruit’ that Jesus addresses His disciples.
He says “Have Faith in God” What could He mean by saying this at this point?
Well, it is the turning point in Jesus Ministry.
It is the point at which the compass changes direction.
The vast majority of the abuse of the money lenders was aimed at the unsuspecting gentiles; it is the here and now that the tide is turning.
Mark 11:22-25 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
“Have faith in God” is not simply a statement but rather it is a response to Peter’s seeming astonishment that the fig tree has withered ‘Have faith in God Jesus answered.’
It is on this answer that Jesus begins again…
I tell you the truth - Amen Amen Jesus says…
Then - ‘if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them’.
Well although we see the words; surely it cannot be that our faith could lift up a mountain physically and throw it into the sea.
If that were true then no-one to my knowledge has ever had enough faith!
The point in question here is quite simple to interpret.
To paraphrase, Jesus is saying to Peter and the others, You need to have great faith for things to happen. If there is an absence of doubt in your heart you will see the results of your prayer.
Interestingly, though this is sermonised regularly it is easy to answer…
The Greatest Rabbinic Teachers of the Scriptures were called ‘Removers of Mountains’.
What Jesus is clearly talking about as a ‘Remover of Mountains’ is a reference to the power in ones own life to remove the obstacles of doubt etc…’ Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.’
Worthy of note - Jesus statement here in no way contradicts his teachings of how to pray in
Matthew 6:9-13 ‘This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Rather than contradict one another, Jesus teaches us the true power of our prayers lies not only in the removal of the ‘mountains’ in our lives but more importantly that we look within ourselves.
So - ‘’ Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.’
If we take Jesus statement at face value we could say this - If I remove any doubt from my mind [the mountain] and ask God for a new Mercedes its going to happen’
This is the logic that many believe and sadly it is the logic taught by the teachers of the Prosperity Gospel.
The reality is that ALL of the prayer applies to its’ successful submission, including most importantly 'And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.’
LOOK AGAIN AT MARK 11:25 “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
I would say that the greatest ‘Mountain’ in anyone’s life today is not doubt but the forgiveness of others, yesterday, today and tomorrow. AND DEALING WITH YOUR OWN SINS.
The focus of Jesus was not just a response to Peter but to the attitude of Israel and the image of the fig tree of sinful behaviour. THIS IS WHY JESUS EMPHASISES OUR DEALING WITH OUR OWN SIN SO OFTEN AS THE KEY TO ANSWERED PRAYER.
Which is easier: to say to this paralysed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? Mark 2:9
It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. Mark 2:17
Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains. John 9:41
The question for all of us today is this …
ARE WE BLIND, OR DO WE SEE. CONSIDER YOUR ANSWER………