Monday 30 December 2013

Mark 11:20-33 - Authority questioned

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On the way back to Jerusalem in the morning, the fruitless fig tree Jesus had spoken to had withered. It didn't wither when he spoke to it, nor did it wither later that day (the disciples didn't remark on it as they returned to Bethany in the evening). But now, a day and a night later it has withered from the roots.

Whether or not there is significance in the timing, Jesus explains that faith results in answered prayer. He also mentions the need for forgiveness; perhaps he is saying that in speaking over the tree (which is an emblem of Israel) he also forgives them for their lack of fruit.

He expects fruit and in that sense Israel has failed and must wither like the fig tree, yet she is forgiven, not forgotten. How often do we, too, fail to produce the fruit that is expected of us? This is a lesson for us all, not only for Israel. We need forgiveness because of our failure to produce good fruit. But we must still understand the cost of fruitlessness. What we have done in our own strength and according to our own wisdom will eventually wither away. Elsewhere Jesus tells his followers to lay up treasure in heaven where it will last forever (Matthew 6:14-21).

Back in Jerusalem again, Jesus returns to the temple courts where his authority is challenged. This is a question containing a trap. If he tells the truth and says 'from my Father in heaven' they will accuse him of blasphemy. So he replies with a hard question of his own, a question that also contains a trap. They will not answer, so neither does he.

But we often overlook the truly extraordinary in our eagerness to understand the mundane [Tweet it!]. What is truly extraordinary here? It's this - the Creator of the universe (The Author of existence) is being asked where his author-ity comes from. Mere men who have usurped authority as the leaders of Israel are rudely demanding to know the source of his authority to speak and act. And he listens to them and converses with them.

The fact that he defuses their barbed questions is not surprising, the fact that he deals with them as one man to another is truly astonishing! And he treats us in the same way, face to face, in conversation, as equals even though nothing could be further from the truth. We could never attain the stature to converse with him, so he comes down to converse with us, and love us and make himself known to us.

What a King we have in Jesus! Immanuel, Elohim with us and amongst us!

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