Mark 11:12-24

On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written,

‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.

In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. Then Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:12-24

Thank you, Stephen Covey, who is credited with saying: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” There is a lot of wisdom in that line. Even, perhaps especially, in the church.

The writer of Mark loves to emphasize the points of his storytelling by framing one story around another. Here, he begins with the lesson of the fig tree, moves into Jesus cleansing the temple, and then comes back again to the fig tree. This is as harsh as Jesus ever gets. What is the main thing in the story?

The purpose of the fig tree is to produce figs; the purpose of the temple is to focus our attention on God as we commune with God in prayer. When fig trees don’t produce fruit, they miss their purpose. When a temple is turned into a marketplace that exploits people, it has lost its purpose. That is the main thing to keep in mind.

In the world of baseball, October is about the playoffs. In the world of the church, October is about the budgeting process and preparation for annual congregational meetings. We can well understand the pressures of each. We know that the church is people, not buildings, but people like air conditioning and padded pew seats and good music and lots of things that cost money. Money doesn’t grow on fig trees. So there is lots of money pressure going on in October.

Is this story intended to make us feel guilty about raising money for fixed costs, youth trips, hurricane relief, staff salaries, homeless shelters, organ repairs, or a new parking lot? Yes, if we fail to keep the main thing the main thing. No, if we are mindful of God’s life giving activity breathing through the generosity and good intentions of God’s people.

Let’s keep the main thing the main thing.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, it is easy for us to get all caught up on business as usual, losing sight of the real business of the church. You call us together that we might connect with you and one another, grow in our discipleship, be sent into the world to be reflections of your love, and invite others to come and see. Help us maintain our focus on you lest we too fall prey to losing ourselves in the marketplace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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2 Responses to “Mark 11:12-24”

  1. Linda W Says:

    “he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.” Pastor Kerry, would you please comment on Jesus cursing the tree causing it to wither and die. The tree hadn’t yet bore fruit since it wasn’t the season for figs. (…and “Go Dodgers”) Thank you.

  2. Bob Schowalter Says:

    I have always struggled with this story for the reason Linda articulates. How can Jesus be so unreasonable as to expect fruit out of season? Condeming the fig tree for something it could not control?

    Your understanding of the story would be helpful.

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