Lenten Reflection - Mark 11:12-25 by Luis Morales
12 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. 15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” 18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. 19 When evening came, Jesus and his disciples[c] went out of the city. 20 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[d] 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.” Mark 11:12-25
I have to admit that when I read this set of verses, it confused me a bit. They’re somewhat random (much like this reflection will be). We go from fig trees to money changers to faith and forgiveness. Then I realized, isn’t life that way? Sometimes it’s a series of random stuff that makes up a day, a month, a part of our life. Each section maybe makes sense in isolation (though sometimes it doesn’t), but as a continuum, we’re often left scratching our heads. Especially if we have control issues and want to control our circumstances.
Don’t we, like the fig tree, sometimes feel cursed and wither for not producing fruit, even though it’s clearly not the season for fruit? Have we not been reprimanded because we follow certain social norms? Aren’t we often in someone’s cross-hairs and feared because we speak the truth?
It seems that the lesson here, the punchline of the story, is to have faith. Well, duh! Isn’t that the essence of most Bible stories? Have faith, forgive, be forgiven, and live in love. That’s really the bottom line. And what’s cool is that there appears to be no limits to what our faith can accomplish. Move real or metaphorical mountains into the sea? No problem. Just ask and believe.
Yes, from personal experience with unanswered prayers and the resulting scars, we know having that kind of faith is hard. That’s OK. Nowhere in our lessons does it say that having faith is a walk in the park. But with a little faith, perseverance and self-compassion, we can continue to put one foot in front of the other in our daily journey with Christ.
If we can remain faithful to God, to the growth process, and to our calling, we’re promised an eternity in glory. During Lent, we have an opportunity to breathe and deepen our relationship with God, so that we may overcome our unbelief, and live in faith.