|This study © 1999 by David Humpal.
vs 12 What does this hunger tell us about Jesus? Name some other times when hunger didnít seem to bother Christ.
Jesus experienced the same human needs that we have. Jamison-Fausset-Brown Commentary even suggests that Jesus may have prayed all night long and then gone straight toward Jerusalem without eating which would cause him to be very hungry.
Although it is true that Jesus was hungry, we know that there were many occasions when Christ went without food. In Mark 3:20-21 Jesus ministered so long without eating that his family came to try to rescue him. In Luke 4 Jesus fasted for 40 days. In John 4, the disciples were concerned that he should eat something, but he replied in verse 32, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about."
So I think itís important for us to ask, Why did Jesus reveal his hunger on this occasion? He was going to teach an important lesson to the disciples and to us. So he made a point of revealing his hunger to those who would re-tell this important lesson for us to learn.
vs 13 Does a fruit tree sometimes have early fruit on it? What does a fig tree sometimes represent in scripture? As Christians, what fruit should we be bearing?
Fig trees did put out early fruit as Song of Solomon 2:13 shows us, "The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance...."
The Wycliffe Bible Commentary points out, "It was normal for the fig tree in the vicinity of Jerusalem to begin to put forth new leaves in the latter part of March or early April, the time of the Passover. This tree was apparently fully leaved out, in which case it should have had ripened figs on it, although the time of ripe figs was in June."
In scripture the fig tree sometimes represents Israel. If that is the case here, then Jesus is warning that if the nation rejects him, they will dry up and wither away. The fig tree could also represent Christian fruit. If we donít use our talents for the Lord and be faithful in ministry, we may find our gifts drying up and our influence for the kingdom diminish. Jesus specifically says this tree represents faith. If we allow our faith to grow, we will bear fruit. However, if we allow our spiritual walk to stagnate, we may discover that we have become dried up and bitter.
vs 14 Why do you think Jesus would curse the tree? Who created the fig tree? How do you think the fig tree represents faith? How should our faith grow?
I donít think that Jesus cursed the fig tree because he was angry. Notice the end of this verse says, "and his disciples heard him say it." This is why he cursed the tree - so his disciples would hear it and learn the lesson which he was trying to teach them. We must remember John 1:3, "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." Christ had created the fig tree so that it would produce fruit. We are also created to produce fruit.
I believe Christians should be bearing two different kinds of fruit - fruit of spiritual growth, and fruit of ministering to others. Not only do we need to grow personally and become more Christ-like in our attitudes and behavior, but we also need to help others to grow by reaching out to them. As we help others, we will see the fruit of our labors in otherís lives. A willingness to bear fruit in these two areas requires faith.
vs 20-21 What will happen to a church if its faith doesnít grow? What will happen to us if our faith doesnít grow?
It is a sad truth that when churches abandon their ministry and stop reaching out to others, they can find themselves drying up and withering away. There are always many reasons for church decline, but we must be willing to grow in our faith if we want to continue being used in Godís ministry. This includes personal growth as well as corporate growth.
How many times have we seen some Christian who started on their faith journey only to get discouraged along the way and begin neglecting the things of God! They may even continue coming to church, but they find their spirit is drying up as their spiritual side is neglected and atrophies. Fortunately, God is long in mercy toward us. All we have to do is return to him and ask him to renew our spirit once again. Amazingly, we find our joy returns and our faith begins to grow again.
But Jesus has given us the warning. We need to bear fruit. We need to be willing to take those steps of faith in our personal life as well as in our church life. We need to be willing to allow God to direct us into new areas of faith. Then we will grow and bear fruit.
Here is some of the fruit that is promised to grow in our lives. From Galatians 5:22-23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control...." What a wonderful reward for our small bit of faithfulness.
vs 22 What different stages might the fig tree represent in our life? Compare our faith to a treeís dormant stage, leafing stage, and fruitful stage. What does this story teach us about bearing early fruit?
Our Christian walk is a journey of spiritual growth. Sometimes we are in the dormant stage where we are growing and receiving nutrition. This is a necessary part of our growth. We will see little results during this stage. Other times we are in the leafing stage where we are starting to stretch out and reach out in faith. We are taking small steps of faith as we learn to make Jesus Lord of our lives and we learn to reach out to others. Finally, the fruitful stage is where we really grow spiritually. But notice that the fruitful stage only comes from proper preparation.
One thing to learn from this story is that even when we are in the dormant stage or leafing stage, we still may bear early fruit. Sometimes the early fruit isnít as ripe or as lush as the later fruit, but it is part of our growth process. I think itís also important to remember that every year the tree repeats these cycles. With us it may be the same. From time to time we may return to the dormant stage to be fed and to grow more, and we may return to the leafing stage to prepare for different ministries or growth. But the Lord has created us to bear fruit, so letís not neglect that important part of our spiritual growth.
vs 23 What kind of faith is Christ teaching we should have? Do you have this kind of faith?
A lot of people believe faith is something that they have to determine in their heart or persevere in their mind. But faith is really believing in the power of God and trusting his promises. If we doubt God, we wonít pray for miracles or for deliverance or for healing. But no matter what our feelings tell us, faith is simply acting on what we know is true - God loves us and has promised to be with us. So there is no obstacle that can stand in our way. There is no trouble or tragedy that God cannot remove.
Jamison-Fausset-Brown Commentary tells us, "Here is the lesson now. >From the nature of the case supposed - that they might wish a mountain removed and cast into the sea, a thing far removed from anything which they could be thought actually to desire - it is plain that not physical but moral obstacles to the progress of His kingdom were in the Redeemer's view, and that what He designed to teach was the great lesson, that no obstacle should be able to stand before a confiding faith in God."
vs 24 What does Jesus say we should do when we pray? Why is faith so important to our spiritual growth?
Jesus says that when we pray, we need to believe. Our doubts have their foundation in our view of God. If we doubt something can happen, itís because we believe in our heart that God is not as powerful as he says he is, or not as caring as he says he is, or as merciful as he says he is. What you believe about God will determine your degree of faith. This is why times of prayer, Bible reading, meditation, and church attendance are so important. Each one of these disciplines helps our faith to grow and teaches us more about God. The more we understand God, the more confidence we will have in him.
If we have doubts and fears, we will discover that we are not willing to take those important steps of faith which lead to spiritual growth. Our faith journey is a time of learning. Usually the greatest lessons are learned during the times of the greatest challenges. If we are unwilling to face new challenges and instead retreat to our cave of safety, we will never experience the spiritual growth which will help us to grow strong in the Lord.
vs 25-26 What is one reason given in this verse that we may see our prayers hindered? Why is it so important we get bitterness and anger out of our heart? What unforgiveness are you still carrying?
Jesus points out a great hindrance to spiritual growth - when we have unforgiveness in our heart. God wants us to have Christian love flowing out from us to others. When we are angry with others, we restrict that flow of love. The only way to overcome this barrier to growth and hindrance to our prayers is to not only ask God to forgive us, but also to forgive others.
McGee remarks, "Here is a condition that the individual must meet before prayer is heard and answered. An unforgiving spirit will short-circuit the power of prayer, and thatís important to understand."
This study on Mark 11:12-14, 20-26 © 1999 by David Humpal, all rights
Wycliffe Bible Commentary, electronic version © 1962, Moody Press
John 1:3 from the King James Version
Jamison-Fausset-Brown Commentary, electronic version © 1997, Biblesoft
Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, vol. 4, pg. 210 © 1983, Thomas Nelson Publishers