A dead fig tree, the desecrated Temple and a lesson on prayer. Jesus intentionally weaves metaphorical, physical and spiritual realities together. At the heart of his message is our relationship with God rooted in prayer.
Jesus carefully inspects the Temple. The next morning, in full view of the disciples he curses the fruitless fig tree. Later that day:
When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. He said to them, The Scriptures declare, “My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have turned it to a den of thieves.” Mark 11:15-17
And back to the cursed fig tree the next morning. The disciples take note that it is withered from the roots up. Then Jesus launches into a lesson on prayer:
I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too. Mark 11:24-26
The fig tree can’t survive with dead roots. Neither can the Temple. The people of Israel were once grounded in prayer, but their hearts turned from God. Prayer has been replaced by self service, power grabbing and stealing from God. The people of God, created in his very image no longer reflected his glory.
What does all this mean for me? I am made for prayer. God designed me to be rooted in his love. To seek nourishment from anything, anyone other than God is to be rooted in poison. The very God who forgave my sin, the ultimate betrayal, wants me to come into his Presence, but to do that I must be rooted in his grace and love, not in grudge holding, self pity and unforgiveness. What is true for me, is true for everyone. When I pray, God listens; when I believe in him, the miraculous happens.
Father, forgive me for when I fail to extend grace to others as you have done for me. Show me when I hold onto grudges, self pity and pride. Keep me from seeking nourishment from any source other than you, for you alone are God. Thank you that you hear my prayers. Hold me close when my wandering heart starts to drift from your side.