Have you ever noticed how MUCH is packed into that week between Palm Sunday and the Resurrection? Mark, for example--16 chapters, and 6 (SIX!) of them are covering this one week of those three years. Obviously, I have no hope of digging into all of it in my four days of blogging about it, LOL.
So today I'm just going to look at one little, itty-bitty, neensy-weensy passage. The fig tree . . . and the power of prayer.
The first time I read about Jesus cursing the fig tree because it (gasp) didn't have any figs out of season, I was like, "Uh . . . okay . . . I mean . . . did he really expect . . . but I guess he was . . . hmmmm." (Yes, I'm always so articulate.)
I think it's pretty safe to say he did it for the lesson. He was packing this week so full of lessons that it's a really good thing people were paying close attention after that whole Hosanna bit, eh? The lesson he draws out of the withered fig tree is the power of prayer.
When I hear that phrase, though--the power of prayer--my usual thought is that it should go something like this: "Dear Lord, please put your hand on so-and-so and heal them. Please send our thirsty land some rain. Please help me to . . . " Right?
But interestingly, that's not what Jesus says. He doesn't say, "For assuredly I say to you, whoever looks at this mountain and says, 'Lord, please remove this mountain from my path,' the Lord shall remove it." Instead he says, "For assuredly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says." (Mark 11:23, NKJV)
Let it be noted I didn't think of this on my own--I read it in a book by one of WhiteFire's other authors. ;-) But I'm going to draw my own conclusions from it. What Jesus is saying here is that when we believe in him--really, whole-heartedly believe--we have his authority. And he, being one with God, did not have to ask to do things. He just did them. He could command the waves. He could boss around the winds. He could talk to that mountain, curse that fig tree.
But I confess that the first time I heard someone praying like that as a kid, it sounded really weird to me. "Who does he think he is?" is pretty much what I thought. "And why in the world is he addressing an inanimate object?"
Even now, that's not how I usually pray. Why? Well . . . maybe it's because of that doubt thing. When we're praying and asking God to do something, that leaves room for doubt about the outcome. It leaves room for us to say, "He might not will it." or "In his time." Both true things, yes, but I believe the idea is that if one has that much faith, he will know the will of the Lord and will not have to doubt whether that mountain ought to be removed. Does that make any sense at all?
Then Jesus goes on to add another kicker--while you're praying these things, you not only have to have no doubt whatsoever, you also have to have nothing in your heart against anyone. You have to be living in total forgiveness. "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." (Mark 11:25-26, NKJV)
Maybe that's another reason we don't often pray like this. It requires introspection first. It requires ferreting out our deepest anger, our darkest bitterness, our hidden offense. Painful stuff . . . until you stop to consider that you cannot hold the authority of the Lord with that junk in your heart.
Seven little verses . . . but they pack quite a wallop! That's what Jesus did best, right? He shone a lamp on the recesses of our hearts and taught us how to flood them with light. But too often we're content to leave a few shadowy corners. Which means it's no wonder we pray and pray and pray and just don't understand why we never get the answers we're looking for.
Abigail in A Stray Drop of Blood goes to the trial seeking vengeance on Barabbas, her heart filled with all those dark feelings. She learns quickly they cannot fill her, though this is but the first step toward forgiving:
Abigail’s heart leapt into her throat. She knew now why he had dragged her over here. Barabbas was being released, and this was where the guards would leave him. The murderer would come, and the man beside her would offer her to him, telling him to finish what he started so well during the uprising. For some reason this stranger, this man supposed to lead her people, hated her enough to want her and her child dead. Was it because Jason was Roman? Or because she had objected when he told the crowd to crucify Jesus?
She was inflamed enough to ask but was not given the chance. The commotion within grew louder, and three figures emerged. Her focus was drawn to the central man. He was still dressed as a prisoner. His clothing was old and threadbare, his hair wild and unwashed, and his body bent from hunger and abuse. His face was dazed, and he blinked in the sunlight, the expression he wore one of confusion and astonishment.
“Barabbas,” the man holding her said as if he knew the man, “congratulations on your release. Did I not tell you it would work this way?”
Barabbas just looked at the man before him, slumping when the soldiers who had led him out let go of his arms.
The leader pushed Abigail forward, hatred burning in his eyes. “This is what we are all fighting to avoid! A Hebrew wench bearing a Roman whelp.”
She expected Barabbas to leer, to lunge, to do something in keeping with the rage that had fueled an uprising. Instead, he looked at her with absent pity. “I am . . .” His voice faded as though he forgot he was speaking. He looked around, his eyes brightening with life and filling with a strange sort of terror.
When they fell on Abigail again, she could not bring herself to throw upon him the hatred she had felt half a minute ago. All she could feel now was the same unbridled panic, the sudden alarm of finding oneself in a situation foreign and unpredicted.
Even before he moved his gaze away from her, Barabbas’s feet started moving. Soon, his whole body followed, and he was running away from them and the crowd behind them as quickly as possible. The religious leader snorted in disgust and strode back into the crowd.
Abigail stood where she was left, staring after the retreating figure.
“Go home, Abigail.” The voice was cold and angry, and its familiarity did not register until she looked over to find Titus only a few feet away, his face a thunderhead of wrath. She could understand it. He wanted to watch the death of a man and instead had been ordered to set him free. Yes, she could understand it. But quite suddenly her soul was an empty chasm in which such emotions vanished in their endless search for a resting place. She stared at him as if not comprehending his words.