“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.” Mark 11.12-14
It’s an odd kind of miracle. It’s certainly a miracle but not one that we might initially brag about to our friends. But the significance of Jesus withering a fig tree that was not bearing fruit is symbolic in many ways. He did this not out of spite because he was hungry and there were no figs, but as a symbolic gesture reflecting the Jews and their rejection of the Messiah.
But before we can insert too much of our own interpretation it’s important to read the rest of the story! The incident of the fig tree is broken up over a day.
Mark 11.20-25 has the rest: “In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!” 22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly[f] 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.”
Now that we’ve read the rest of the story we know the story of the cursing of the fig tree is less about a symbolic gesture of Israel or ministries that do not bear fruit, and more about prayer. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go throw yourself into the sea,” and does not doubt in their heart but believe that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.” Prayer. Asking God to do that which is according to his will and believing that he will do it.
Jesus continues telling us that whatever we as for in prayer, “believe that you have received it and it will be yours.” It’s not the name and claim it gospel which gets so much bad press, but it is the ask-by-faith principle which Jesus reminds us of.
Now our world is in a great deal of pain. The racism which has haunted Black Americans for 400 years continues. It has got to stop. But so does abortion which has killed 20 million babies to date in the first 6 months of the year. Violence, hatred, abuse and neglect of vulnerable people must stop as well. Although racism is not the only issue of sin our nation must confront, it seems to be the most publicized and hot topic of the day.
What am I saying? We need to ask God in prayer to heal our nation. Heal the divisions, affirm all people and rescue us from the curse of sin, death, racism and injustice. Jesus is our only hope for a world lost in sin where Satan seems to have his way with our free wills. But God is victorious and Jesus gives us an answer to hope, a remedy for relief — and it’s relying upon him through prayer that matters most.
Let us take the words of Jesus to heart and ask through prayer by faith for healing for our land, our people and our nation. And when we ask, do not doubt but believe that what you ask will happen indeed.
“O Lord God, daily I walk with you, talk with you, seek to know and serve you. Am I perfect? Hardly? Am I ignorant and apathetic of the plight of those who are hurting? Sometimes I am, I confess. But help me know you fully and cling to the cross completely. You are the answer for our brokenness. You are the hope for the lies, evil and oppression of so many. Come, Lord Jesus! You made us and created all people in your image. Rid the world of the stain of evil and return again to save us from our sins. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen