Today: [Mark 11] Have the Faith of God: In chapter 11 of Mark Jesus enters Jerusalem as the recognized Messiah. He drives out the money-changers, and scandalizes the temple leadership for all the disruption He brings to the normal operation of the temple during the feast days. He then curses a fig tree that promptly dies, and then gives a powerful teaching on the power of faith that He expects not only to be resident in His own life, but presumptively expects His own disciples and followers to emulate as well.
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[Mar 11:1-33 KJV] 1 And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples, 2 And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring [him]. 3 And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither. 4 And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him. 5 And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt? 6 And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go. 7 And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him. 8 And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed [them] in the way. 9 And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed [is] he that cometh in the name of the Lord: 10 Blessed [be] the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest. 11 And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve. 12 And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: 13 And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not [yet]. 14 And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard [it]. 15 And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; 16 And would not suffer that any man should carry [any] vessel through the temple. 17 And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. 18 And the scribes and chief priests heard [it], and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.
Jesus arrives in Jerusalem and dispatches two of his disciples to retrieve transportation for Him to enter the city. Other gospels identify the animal as an ass rather than a colt and this is significant because in ancient times when a leader approached a city on a horse it was a sign of aggression, whereas an ass represented a mission of peace. The disciples are not instructed to secure an animal from those who would have made such means available as a part of their trade, but rather He gave instructions by word of knowledge where to find a specific animal tied in a particular place and upon completing their task they found all just as Jesus says. Without asking they untie the beast and when the owner confronted them, they explained what Jesus required and were allowed to continue.
After spending the night in Bethany, Jesus arises with an appetite and proceeds to approach a fig tree for breakfast. This would have been curious to the 12 because they would have known and would have known that Jesus was doubtless aware that this was not the time to find ripe figs on the branches. There is a prophetic significance here. The fig tree was a type of the nation of Israel. As the Messiah, in coming to Jerusalem in the manner in which He was recognized by the people, He was demanding the fruits of Israel’s repentance. At Bethany, He only finds leaves but no fruit. This speaks to us of Jesus’ assessment of His triumphal entry. It gave indication that the city was receiving Him as the son of David, the Messiah, but He knew that these same people would cry out “crucify Him, crucify Him” very shortly. What about in our own lives? Are we “bringing forth the fruits thereof…” in terms of authentic deference in our lives and activities to the Lordship of Christ? Or are we merely giving evidence of the accouterments of faith and not the actual substance of any meaningful fidelity to Jesus? The proof of our valid faith is in what happens when we are under pressure. The disciples will swear to a man that they will never forsake Jesus, but when the soldiers came they proved untrue. Paul said in Acts 14:22 that it is through great tribulation (read pressure) we enter the kingdom. Many of us are fair whether believers, protesting great faith when all is well but something altogether different comes out of us when the heat is on.
After the disappointment with the fig tree, Jesus gathers His disciples and returns to the temple. After visiting the day before and surveying the activity there, Jesus apparently thought on the money-changers in the night and goes directly after them the next day. Without hesitation, He assaults the money changers, driving them out and turning over their tables of commerce and refusing to let anyone carry any burden great or small through the temple complex. This temple is known as Herod’s temple, but it presumed to be identified as the temple of God. For this reason, Jesus takes authority that others would not have accorded Him and begins to set things in order. The money changers were there to meet people from all over the Roman empire and exchange their coin for the special coin of the temple for paying the temple tax. In so doing they were shortchanging the worshippers, charging exorbitant fees to facilitate the transaction. Likewise, the doves they were selling were intended for the very poor, who could not afford a more expensive lamb or bullock, therefore these money-changers were preying upon the vulnerable as their stock and trade, and the chief priests and elders were allowing it to happen.
19 And when even was come, he went out of the city. 20 And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. 21 And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away. 22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. 23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. 24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive [them], and ye shall have [them]. 25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. 27 And they come again to Jerusalem: and as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders, 28 And say unto him, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority to do these things? 29 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 The baptism of John, was [it] from heaven, or of men? answer me. 31 And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him? 32 But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all [men] counted John, that he was a prophet indeed. 33 And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.
Jesus remains in the temple until evening, apparently ensconcing Himself as a disruptor to the normal proceedings there until evening, daring the fearful chief priests and scribes to interrupt Him or challenge His teachings. As evening comes on, Jesus summons the twelve and goes out again to Bethany. There to the amazement of the twelve, they find the fig tree withered up, dried from the roots. Peter brings it to Jesus’ attention and Jesus simply says “have faith in God…” Is there something deeper Jesus is saying? Scholarship reluctantly and grudgingly admits that a literal rendering of this statement in the original language of the manuscript is more accurately rendered “have the faith of God…” The Young’s Literal Translation” translates this phrase exactly that way. Another paraphrase says “have the God kind of faith…”
Why is it important that we examine this so minutely? Because Jesus is saying that if we have the faith of God, or the God kind of faith we will ask what things so ever we desire, when we pray, and we will have them….” This is what Jesus over and over again presumptively expects the disciples to understand. The greatest sticking point for the believer is the very thing that Jesus is astonished that we do not find the easiest thing to accept and manifest in our lives, that of the power of faith and the reliability of the promises of God to transform our lives. When religious mentalities read this passage, they often add “unless God doesn’t want you to have this or that…” But Jesus makes no such qualification. He simply states if we have the God kind of faith we will have what things we desire when we pray believing. Notice that He doesn’t say what things that God determines we need as a bare necessity, but what things so ever you “desire”. That word “desire” means what things so ever we crave. What is the difference? We need vitamins, but we crave ice cream. The point is that our faith, is something that God has given to every one of us and is possessed of a power to influence our lives far more than we know. Because religious mentalities have no faith, they explain away, make excuses and twist the scriptures to justify prayerlessness, and powerlessness, but the testimony of God’s word is sure – what things so ever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them and you will have them!
Jesus continues, shifting the subject to the matter of forgiveness. He actually connects the thought of forgiveness with the idea of receiving through the exercise of the God kind of faith, using the word “therefore”. In other words Jesus is saying “because you will have what things so ever you desire, when you have the faith of God, be sure you are walking in forgiveness – so you do not experience the opposite…” Always remember that faith works by love. If you put the key of your actions in the ignition of faith and nothing happens, Jesus is saying that the first thing to do is inquire not whether or not it is God’s will by a faithless religious metric, but rather than questioning God, let us question ourselves to see if we are holding ought against any that would cause our otherwise mountain moving faith to produce a miracle which should be our presumptive expectation. In religion, no one is surprised when miracles don’t come. In Christ however we should be surprised that they do NOT manifest and if they don’t we are not to question God or pervert His truth, rather we are as Jesus plainly indicates here – to LOOK AT OURSELVES for the occasion of finding the reason for unanswered prayer, very often as unforgiveness.
The twelve accompany Jesus in v. 27 back to Jerusalem, and the chief priests are waiting in ambush. The demand to know by what authority He has presumed to interfere with temple activities as He did since His arrival in Jerusalem. Jesus answers them, asking if John’s ministry was from heaven or just merely of human origination. Of course, they are not about to question the reputation of John the Baptist because the people held John in high esteem, therefore they decline to answer. Seeing their reluctance, Jesus merely replies that if they will not answer His question to them, then He will not answer their question to Him.
This is a lesson to us all, when we are challenged by our detractors, learn to answer questions with questions.
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