Faith produces fruit as well as effective prayer. Mark 11:12-14, 20-25; Jam 1:6-8; 4:3
And He began telling this parable: "A certain man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it, and did not find any. 7 "And he said to the vineyard-keeper, 'Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?' 8 "And he answered and said to him, 'Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; 9 and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.' "
Day 2 of the Passion Week.
Mark 11:12 And on the next day, when they had departed from Bethany, He became hungry.
Mark 11:13 And seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.
Mark 11:14 And He answered and said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again!" And His disciples were listening.
Everyone who does not bear fruit for Christ will be withered, which is analogous to divine discipline.
"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit. 3 "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned [not the LOF, but divine discipline]. 7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. 8 "By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.
It would not be until the next day, day three in our buildup to the final 16 hours of Christ’s first advent, that the disciples would notice that the tree had completely withered.
As you skip down to verse 20, you bypass the cleansing of the temple which we shall note.
Mark 11:20 And as they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up.
Mark 11:21 And being reminded, Peter said to Him, "Rabbi, behold, the fig tree which You cursed has withered."
In the parallel passage in Matthew, Matt 21:19 states that the fig tree withered at once, which shows us that the disciples didn’t notice it. This shows that they are still unprepared for their mission. But not to worry, the Lord will prepare them in two ways; He will prepare them with an introduction into mystery doctrine that no one had ever heard, and secondly by means of the filling of the HS at Pentecost.
Since the withering tree isn’t noticed until day three, we will divert to day three for just a while to see the Lord’s application of what they finally recognized.
Peter doesn’t say, “Your word Lord has withered this tree,” but rather “the fig tree you cursed has withered as a consequence.” In other words, Peter is impressed with the miracle and not so much with the spiritual meaning of it. Again, Peter, much like we’ll see him in John 13 [overt bathing rather than spiritual cleansing] in our first scene of the upper room, is still very much impressed with the visual over and above the spiritual.
And like I mentioned last week, this reveals a lack of preparation in the hearts of the disciples, and Peter as the usual spokesman of the chosen but unprepared.
It was rather the Miracle of the tree’s withering than its moral and spiritual import which impressed the disciples. As with Elijah, they could see the storm and earthquake but they missed that still small Voice.
I will ask you to do the same. All the time there is important stuff going on in your life… is there a still small voice calling your attention to something? Is it something important?
The voice is the voice of the Lord, the word of the Lord which, when mixed with faith brings the blessing of grace rather than the condemnation of judgment.
But Lord, as He always does, ever leads His own from mere wonderment at the Miraculous up to that which is higher. His answer now combined all that they needed to learn. And through His leading He will take them, as well as us, to a place we might not have expected, and that is effective prayer.
The event of the fig tree pointed to the typical lesson of what had taken place: the need of realizing, simple faith, the absence of which was the cause of Israel’s leafy barrenness, and which, if present and active, could accomplish all, however impossible it might seem by outward means.
The expression ‘rooting up mountains’ that the Lord will use in verse 23 is in common Rabbinic use as a hyperbole for doing the impossible or the incredible.
And yet it was only to ‘have faith in God;’ such faith as becomes those who know God; a faith in God, which seeks not and has not its foundation in anything outward, but rests on Him alone.
Mark 11:22And Jesus answered saying to them, "Have faith in God.
Mark 11:23"Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea ,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it shall be granted him.
To one who ‘shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that what he saith cometh to pass, it shall be to him.’15 And this general principle of the Kingdom, which to the devout and reverent believer needs neither explanation nor limitation, received its further application, specially to the Apostles in their coming need.
Mark 11:24"Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted you.
Verse 25 brings us to the dual nature of effective prayer – the love of God and the love of your neighbor or impersonal unconditional love for all mankind.
Mark 11:25"And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions.
These two things follow: faith gives absolute power in prayer, and personal love for God gives tremendous muscle to faith and what follows personal love for God is always impersonal love for all mankind.
Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" 37 And He said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 "This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 "The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."
What the Lord is revealing to the disciples concerning the fig tree is, so to speak, the New Testament application of the great commandment of the Law: "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' "This is the great and foremost commandment. "The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'
If the first commandment is God-ward, the second is man-ward; if the first bound us to faith, the second binds us to charity, while hope, the expectancy of answered prayer, is the link connecting the two.
Prayer, unlimited in its possibilities, stands midway between heaven and earth; with one hand it reaches up to heaven, with the other down to earth; in it, faith prepares to receive, what charity is ready to dispense.
He who so prays believes in God and has virtuous love towards man; such prayer is not selfish, self-seeking, self-conscious; least of all, is it compatible with mindfulness of wrongs, or an unforgiving spirit.
This, then, is the second condition of prayer, and not only of such all-prevailing prayer, but even of personal acceptance in prayer. Prayer that is selfish will never be effective.
Remember what we read in:
John 15:7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you.
James mentions both God-ward and man-ward love in effective prayer.
But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man [weak in faith because of a lack of personal love towards God], unstable in all his ways.
You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. [this applies to personal prayer, supplication, and prayer for others, petition.]