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Verses 12-14, "Now the next day when they had come out from Bethany he was hungry, and seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves he went to see if perhaps he would find something on it. When he came to it he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, 'Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.' And his disciples heard it." Here we have the next day. Interesting day, you wonder what exactly is going on here. Jesus is hungry. Hasn't eaten in a little while, has done a lot of traveling and he sees in the distance a fig tree with leaves. So he goes over to this fig tree, wanting a bite to eat, and he goes to it and there's no figs. Mark tells us it's not the season for figs. But even with that, he curses this tree, he says 'Man, let no one ever eat from you again.' We read in other gospels that immediately--the disciples evidently don't see it immediately--but immediately the tree withers, just withers right up. And the disciples maybe aren't up close to see that, but they at least hear him. They're like, 'What is going on?'. Now he curses this fig tree. Why did Jesus do this? Well, generally I learned from study, couldn't tell you because I'm not a tree guy, but I've learned from study anyway from commentaries that generally if there's leaves on a fig tree, generally there will be fruit on a fig tree. Even though it's not the time of year, this has put out some leaves kind of early. Maybe it's in the right soil, maybe it's in the right shade, it's looking pretty good, and it's rather early for it, but there should be something else to follow up--evidently some fruit. But there's this promise but there isn't any performance. And with that, Jesus curses it because it's fruitless. It seems to promise one thing but it doesn't have that. Now why does he still do that? The fig tree, as you study different parts of the Bible, we learn the fig tree represents the nation of Israel. And this is a perfect picture of the nation of Israel, got the green leaves, looks good, looks religious, looks like they're the people of God--but when you really look up close they're hearts are far from God. As we read even a little while ago, Jesus quoted Isaiah 29, 'You draw near to me with your lips, but your heart is far from me.' So the fig tree is a perfect picture of the nation of Israel. And Jesus curses this fig tree and that's also a perfect picture of what's gonna take place in a short time with the nation of Israel [the House of Judah]--in 70 A.D.--it's gonna cease to exist for nearly 2,000 years. So it's a picture of what is taking place in this entire nation. I wonder how we appear to Christ?--how you appear, how I appear? Do we look like we have nice leaves, maybe, others say, 'Ah, what a nice tree', but when you inspect closer, do you see the fruit? Is there fruit that he can partake of in your life and in my life? Jesus stated a similar thought in John chapter 15:1-8. For some of you I'm sure that's already come to mind, that passage. Jesus said "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him bears much fruit. For without me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is cast out as a branch and is withered and they gather them and throw them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit so you will be my disciples." Jesus says to the church, he says to you and I, he says, 'Abide in me. If you abide in me you're gonna bear much fruit. But if you don't abide in me and you don't bear fruit, you're gonna wither right up, and you're gonna be cast into the fire.' [Almost shows that Jesus is not an advocate of once saved always saved. Refer to Matthew 24:13 also, with this in mind. Just an observation.] So Jesus shows that same truth with this fig tree and Israel applies to you and I as the church. And what type of fruit is Jesus looking for in our lives? Obviously the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, meekness, self-control, gentleness, goodness, temperance (Galatians 5:22-23). But also we read in Hebrews 13, the fruit of praise, the fruit of Colossians, the fruit of the gospel, in James, the fruit of righteousness--when he looks in your life does he see those things? Or does he see a tree with just green leaves that looks nice, looks religious, but does he look deeper and say, 'You know, there's self-control in that person's life, powered by the Holy Spirit. There's peace, man, the peace of God, there's love abounding from their life, there's gentleness, humility, meekness, goodness. Praise and thanksgiving just comes from their heart, from their lips, and they live rightly, there's righteousness before me. What does Jesus see in your life? Definitely a warning to you and I, this fig tree, it's a picture of what Jesus says in John, that if he comes and there's no fruit, we're not abiding in him--that the tree will be withered up. John says, quotes Jesus saying it will be cast into the fire.

Verses 15-19, "So they came to Jerusalem, and Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple and overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And he would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. Then he taught saying to them, 'Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.' 'But you have made it a den of thieves.' And the Scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy him, for they feared him, because all the people were astonished at his teaching. When the evening had come he went out of the city." [This is the 10th Nisan or Abib when the lambs where chosen, Jesus is crucified on the 14th Nisan or Abib, when the lambs were slain.] Tremendous time. You know, in this city you've got these guys, these religious leaders that think they're on top of the world. They've really worked to maintain their position. They have a sense of control. But they're very threatened by Jesus. Jesus is not a respecter of persons, he comes in on this parade, the city is just quaked like an earthquake, and then he goes the next day into the temple and begins to toss over the tables, and toss over the seats of dove-sellers, right there in their own temple. He goes right in, he doesn't even respect so much that they think they're religious. He just goes in and cleans house, as the Son of God. This is probably, as we read, this is probably the second time Jesus goes into the temple and does this. John chapter 2, we have another time. And if you lay it out there are some differences. And it seems he must have done this twice. He did it early on in his ministry. Was away from Jerusalem, so the guys, a little time later came back in and set up their tables and started to go right back at it. Comes in later [at the end of his earthly ministry]. Evidently, he's thinking they are, so the day before, he goes in and maybe no one's in there, must be the Sabbath. Then he comes in the next day and they're in there and he goes to town and begins to flip over--I mean you can just imagine a guy coming in, one individual, and there's all these people, with their tables, and he just flips over their tables. Why does he get so angry because they're doing this? Well, no doubt God detests when he's misrepresented. He completely detests being misrepresented. God hates when in the name of religion, people take advantage of other people. God detests when we try to show that he is one way to our benefit when he is not. And for that reason Jesus is angry. These people are really inhibiting worship of God.

What would happen was these money-changers, when they set up this system so that you could only purchase goods from the temple with temple currency. And of course for the sacrifices you would need doves and certain animals [bulls, lambs, goats, etc.--big money items] and they needed to be approved by the priests. [Think how much money a whole lamb or bull costs. This is big money we're talking about here.] They needed to be of a certain quality, and that's according to the Law of Moses. But they used that in a manipulative way. You'd go out to your own area and get a dove that was nice and beautiful and bring it to the priest, but he would look at it and he would look at it, and he would look long enough till he found a flaw, and say, 'No, this dove just doesn't cut it. You need to get a dove from us. You know, we've got ones already approved by the temple, the temple committee, that are temple worthy.' So with that you'd have to purchase one, but then also if you were from a foreign country, you'd have to get your currency changed to get this temple currency [and three million Jews, many from foreign lands, would descend on Jerusalem for the Passover/Unleavened Bread/Pentecost season, cf. Acts 2]. And of course they would just sell these doves [and other animals] for ridiculous prices. And the exchange rate on the currency was really high, and they were just ripping people off. And Jesus couldn't stand it. In fact, you read in verse 16, after he cleans house, even then he's still in this state of just anger--it's a righteous anger--he doesn't even let people come into the temple area--the temple mount is quite a large area--he wouldn't even let the people in that area carrying goods...And with that he teaches in verse 17, he says, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.' 'But you have made it a den of thieves.'"--you've just made a mockery of it.' And the house of God is to be a house of prayer. I pray that God looks at this congregation, the folks that come here, and see this church as a house of prayer. You know, prayer is a vertical thing. When you have people coming together to pray they're coming together around God. He's the focus. Prayer is vertical. A church that prays is centered and focussed on God. If a church doesn't pray much, what is the focus? What is the center of attention if you're not a church that prays very much? When you pray, you say "God, please, God please..." He is the center of attention. And that's the place for the house of God is for you and I to come and to come around with God, and seek his face together, not to get focussed on anything but that. And that's what Jesus says. God's house is a house of prayer, people coming individually--you have your own line of communication right to the Lord--individually coming and just calling upon him and praising him, and worshipping him. May God see that in our lives and may he see that here in the ministry of this church.

Well, the Scribes and chief priests, they just can't handle him, they're so threatened by him that they want to destroy him. [Annas was supposed to be the High Priest for life, but Pilate made him step down. To retain the power behind the throne, so-to-speak, Annas had one son-in-law after another appointed as High Priest. Caiaphas was one of those appointees, his son-in-law. Annas owned exclusive rights to all the money-making concessions around the Temple. So when Jesus overturned the money-changer's tables and drove out all that bought and sold animals on Temple grounds, he was striking right at the personal financial heart of the person who was the real High Priest in actuality. Jesus also must have been aware of the date that he was doing this on--the tenth of Nissan, the day all the lambs were to be selected by the head's of households for the Passover. What he was doing, in reality, was interrupting the massive selling and selecting process that was taking place on this special day of selection--which forced the High Priest to select the real Lamb of God for sacrifice--crucifixion--and all this was done on the proper day. Cf. Exodus 12:1-8. To read of this incredible timing and about these last six days in the life of Jesus Christ Click Here ] But it says, here the people are still very much with Jesus, and they fear the people. [The people, the large majority of Jews, according to Jim Bishop in his work "The Day Christ Died", never turned against Jesus. He was speedily taken off the scene, tried illegally at night--and Jim Bishop indicates the crowd that accompanied the High Priest and Jesus to Pilate for Pilate's judgment were none other than the Temple Guard and everyone in the Temple employ who could be mustered up. So, even the crowd that cried 'Crucify him! Crucify him!' was a "staged crowd" and not really composed of the masses of Jews gathered from around the world for the Passover season.] What we don't have here, but in another account in Matthew is that Matthew says that those that were lame, and the paralytics and the blind, they came to Jesus again and he was healing them right there in the Temple. So he's doing these miracles before their eyes, he's touching lives, all these prophecies are being fulfilled but yet the Scribes and Pharisees still wanted to destroy him and wouldn't accept him. At night, as he does each evening, he departs from the city.

Verses 20-26, "Now in the morning as they passed by they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter remembering said, 'Rabbi, look, the fig tree which you cursed has withered away. So Jesus answered and said to them, 'Have faith in God, for assuredly I say to you, Whoever says to this mountain, Be removed and cast into the sea', and does not doubt in his heart but believes that those things that he said will be done, he will have what he says. Therefore I say to you, whatsoever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them and you will have them. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins." Next day they're going down again, evidently the Mount of Olives, somewhere in that area, back into Jerusalem from Bethany, and they pass by this tree again. Peter says 'Whoa! Check it out! That tree is dead! Not only did it just die, it withered up from the roots! Man, that tree is dead forever!' He says, 'Rabbi, Jesus, check this out!--You cursed this tree and it just died.' Obviously with that the disciples are wondering, going down, and Jesus goes right to the heart of all the issues, and he says, 'Have faith in God, have faith in God.' Jesus is probably saying a lot in that statement, as you again consider the fig tree. He's cursed this fig tree that represented the nation of Israel. A nation that was religious, had the leaves, but had no fruit, no faith. Faith is a key element to fruit. A faithless nation, again they don't even know the day of their visitation. They've missed it altogether, they're just not people of faith. So Jesus has cursed it, and now they ask why, 'Look, Jesus, what have you done?' Jesus uses this to teach them 'Have faith in God, I've curse this tree because it was a fruitless tree. If you don't want to be a fruitless tree have faith in God.' It's all about faith. Faith pleases him, faith is the key to a life of fruit. The nation of Israel wasn't a faithful people at this point, so God judged them. Then he continues, though, he says, "I say to you, if you say to this mountain over here, Move from there and into the sea', and you believe it, it will happen." It will happen just like that. And then he goes further, he says, 'Whatever, whenever you pray, if you believe what you're asking for, you're gonna get it, if you believe him.' Now this passage many folks have used, manipulated and taught strange things. If you understand, obviously, all the Scriptures, it balances out. Not too many folks in the past I think have moved mountains. In fact, I was looking at J. Vernon MaGee's commentary and he says, "You know, I like the mountains where they are. I wouldn't want to move a mountain into the ocean. Why would I want to do a silly thing like that?" That's Jesus' point, though, is this point of faith. It's key to understand this passage, it's key to understand who he's talking to, his disciples. He's talking to folks that have denied themselves, left their careers, left their families, left all to follow him. He talking to certain folks with certain hearts, that want to seek him and glorify him. And he says to them, 'If you believe, you can do these things. It's key to understand he's talking to disciples. A disciple isn't gonna go to Jesus and say, "Jesus, I want a Mercedes. And I'm gonna pray right now and believe. I'm gonna just visualize in my mind positively thinking this Mercedes--Boom!--it better be there!" A disciple isn't gonna do that. "I want the biggest house in my town, I want it to be mine. I'm gonna visualize it. I want it to be mine." That's not a disciple. People have taken this passage and abused it, misinterpreted it. I think they need to read back about people who misrepresent God and his Word, what Jesus thinks of that. But that's not what Jesus is referring to. He's talking to the heart of the disciple. Like what the Psalmist says. The Psalmist says, "Delight yourself also in the Lord, and he shall give you the desires of your heart." Delight yourselves in the Lord--that's the condition of your heart--he will give you the desires of your heart. That is a truth [cf. Matthew 6:25-33.]. If my heart is delighted in the Lord and I'm seeking the Lord, man, he will give me the deepest desire of my heart. But my desires are probably gonna be a little different than Mercedes, the largest house in my hometown--our desires are gonna be for his kingdom, as I've delighted myself in him. The Psalmist goes further, he says, "But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing." Those that seek the Lord won't lack any good thing. If I seek God I'm gonna have all I need, and you know, whatever I've sought him in prayer for, I'm gonna get what I need, what I asked for. Those that seek the Lord, the Psalmist in Psalm 84 says, "No good thing will be withheld from those who walk uprightly." No good thing will be withheld if you walk uprightly, walk according to the ways of God--which is to love your neighbor as yourself, to love God and to seek him and his ways. If you walk uprightly you will see that nothing will be withheld from you as you pray and you seek God. I love Psalm 81 for those people of God, "Open your mouth wide and I will fill it." [This was George Mueller's favorite Scriptural promise from God that he constantly put to use in his orphan house ministry. Be sure to look up George Muller in the "What is Prayer?" section.] God just wants to bless us. That's what Jesus is saying, 'If you believe', he's speaking to the disciples--if your heart is to serve him, lay it down for him, if you seek him in prayer, you're gonna have a certain heart--and you're gonna see God do radical things, man, radical things as you pray. He's talking obviously about effective prayer. Effective prayer is prayer that is full of faith.

Let's look at James chapter 1. This passage, you know, you wrestle with. My wife and I were even wrestling with it this week, talking about it. There's been times I've come to this passage, and, I'm like, 'Well Lord, are you telling me that you want me to do such and such?' And then I pray. And then I'm like, 'Well am I not praying with enough faith?' and 'Why don't I have enough faith?'--you know, we wrestle with this thing. [Certainly is nice to see pastors go through this too, isn't it?]--If I believe God will do it, if I don't believe--well James chapter 1, verse 6. Referring to someone who wants wisdom, God says, "But let him ask in faith with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord. He's a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." So now we see Jesus is saying, 'You pray in faith', James is saying, 'If you are asking something that God wants to work in your life--I mean obviously God wants to give you wisdom, you can be guaranteed of that--God wants to give you wisdom. Read the Proverbs. God wants you very much to be given wisdom--but if you go in faith, you go to the Lord in prayer and say, "Lord, give me wisdom, but I really wonder if you're gonna give it to me, Lord. Give me wisdom, Lord. But, boy, I just don't think you want to. You seem to ignore me a lot Lord." Well James says, man, he's not gonna receive anything from the Lord, the man that's like that. In fact he says he's a double-minded man, he's unstable. Man the life of an unstable man or an unstable woman is hard, an unstable environment. But the person of faith is a pillar, is strong--just in the Word. Faith comes by hearing [and reading in the Word of God]. I recently was given some tapes, a program where you can listen to the Bible in forty days. The whole program is called "Faith Comes By Hearing", and lots of churches have done that. And I've been kind of going through the material. But faith comes by hearing the Word as you're in the Word, seeking His face, you get faith, and as God speaks to you about such an issue, or about one of his promises, with that, I go to him and I pray and believe and I receive. But if I don't believe, man, it's--why pray if you don't believe? Why pray if you're just going through the motions? You know, why pray for your spouse or pray for these other people if you really don't believe it in your heart? Effective prayer is full of faith, man, gettin' on your knees and going, 'Lord, you can do it, not only can you do it, I know you're gonna do it because you've told me, you've promised me, and because you said that I just cling to that...' You know, faith counts things that are not as though they are. Faith counts things that are not as though they are. Let's look at Hebrews chapter 11. Hebrews 11:1-16, "For faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God [John 1:1-11], so that the things which are seen are not made of things which are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, to which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts and through it he being dead still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, and was not found because God had taken him. For before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those that diligently seek him. By faith Noah being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob the heirs with him of the same promise. For he waited for the city which has foundations whose builder and maker is God. By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed as she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and from him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude, innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them from afar were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And if truly they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now these desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." It goes on and on to talk about, by faith Moses, Abraham, Joseph, the great ones of the past looking to things not yet seen but accepting God for his word and just stepping out in faith and responding in faith. Faith pleases God. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen of that God has spoken to you in your life. If there's something that he's spoken to you about a promise that he wants to do in your marriage or with your children or your family or some other area of your life, he wants you to accept his promises in faith. If God has led you to go out and do some sort of ministry or work in some sort of area, he wants you to step out in faith and trust him in faith. Faith pleases God. Effective prayer is full of faith, it's prayer that says 'Lord, you can, and I know you will.' And may we be in his Word, hearing his voice, learning his character so that we get that faith, to pray in faith. [For a super series on faith click on and order Charles Stanley's six cassette series titled "Learning To Walk By Faith".]
Verses 25-26, "and whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses." Jesus says effective prayer is full of faith. But he also says effective prayer is a prayer of meekness and humility. It's a prayer when you come to the Lord and there's somebody that's done something that has hurt you, and you have issue with, and you forgive them. And if you don't forgive them, Jesus says, if you come and you're praying to your heavenly Father who has forgiven you of all your sin--Jesus has gone to the cross for your sin--if you come to him and yet you have something against another, your prayer is just a waste of time.

Mark 11:27-33, "They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. 'By what authority are you doing these things?' they asked. 'And who gave you authority to do this?' Jesus replied, 'I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John's baptism--was it from heaven, or from men? Tell me!'

They discussed it among themselves and said, 'If we say, 'From heaven,' he will ask, 'Then why didn't you believe him?' But if we say, 'From men'...' (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.) So they answered Jesus, 'We don't know.' Jesus said, 'Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.'" The priests and scribes asked Jesus about all these things...I mean, to come in a parade like he did, knock over these tables, to create this havoc in the temple and to chase these folks out. 'Who gave you the authority to do that Jesus? "But Jesus answered and said to them, 'I'll ask you also one question, then answer me and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, was it from heaven or men? Answer me!' And they reasoned among themselves saying, 'If we say from heaven he will say 'Why then did you not believe him?' But if we say from men', they feared the people, for all counted John to have been a prophet indeed. So they answered and said to Jesus, 'We do not know.' And Jesus answered and said to them, 'Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.'" Well, the religious leaders challenge Jesus' authority. They've seen him do the miracles again. They've seen all this stuff that he's done, but it certainly is threatening to them, so they come to him, 'Alright, you tell us, Jesus, what authority do you have to do these things?' And Jesus goes right again to the heart of the matter. He says, 'Tell you what, I'll tell you if you tell me something. John, John the Baptist, where did he get his authority? Did it come from heaven, or was it from men? You tell me where he got his authority and I'll tell you where I got my authority.' And of course he trapped them, because, well, they didn't accept John the Baptist's ministry. In accepting his ministry they gotta accept Christ, because John said, 'Here's the Lamb of God, right here, Jesus.' So they can't accept John the Baptist. But then, everybody respected John the Baptist. Millions went out and were baptized by him--many of the folks standing around, I'm sure at this moment. So they're not gonna say, 'Well, from men', because the people are gonna go, 'Hey, you Scribes and Pharisees are really out to lunch!' So they're trapped. They say, 'I don't know.' And he says, 'You don't know, I don't know. You're not gonna tell me, I'm not gonna tell you. You tell me, I'll tell you. That's where that's at.' So he traps them in their own way. But, he says, 'Your problem is faith. You want to know my authority, man. If you had faith you would have seen who John the Baptist was, and that he pointed to me, and you'd receive me.' But these people were so blinded, they would not receive Jesus, and like the fig tree they tried to look good, but not receive Jesus. And like the fig tree, forty years from this point, man, this nation was going to be destroyed for many, many years [1878 years to be exact]--judged because their heart was hard. They'd been given so much, they'd been given the Law, they'd been given the Prophets, they'd been given the Sacrifices, all that, the Tabernacle, the Temple, but they still refuse to accept God in faith, and his Word and to just humble themselves before him. And God, God judged them, judged them severely. Well, that concludes Mark chapter 11.

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