On Tuesday, while on the outskirts of Jerusalem, they see the same fig tree Jesus took issue with on Monday all shriveled up. Peter points it out to Jesus, and here is Jesus’ response.
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.’” (Mark 11:22-26)
Jesus wants his followers to know that there can be no “pretending” when it comes to following him. They cannot just look right on the outside. They have to really embrace the God-life. This is having faith in God. As he talks to them, he is standing on the Mount of Olives and can see the Dead Sea in the distance. According to Jesus there seems to be a kind of faith that can remove the greatest difficulties in life. It’s a faith that does not doubt, but believes it will happen.
I have to stop for a second. I believe religion has created a cloudy understanding here. If you just have enough faith you can ask for anything and you’ll get it. If you don’t get it, you don’t have enough faith. If you are sick, you don’t have enough faith. If you are poor, you don’t have enough faith. If your kids make poor choices, you don’t have enough faith. This is what religion has taught us, but it’s not what Jesus was saying here.
Jesus clearly sees faith as more than just wishful thinking, but an immersion of our lives into the God-life, the kingdom life he is introducing. When we ask, we ask for everything pertaining to this God-life. When we ask for these things we get them. When we ask for spiritual eyes to see our illness, we get that. When we ask for wisdom in handling our finances or lack thereof, we get that. When we ask according to the life we’ve been called to live, we get what we ask for. But, it’s not all about the asking. It’s also about giving – giving forgiveness where needed. When we are sold out and focused on following Jesus, the things we ask for will be the things that we see in the kingdom that Jesus ushered in. It’s not the American Dream, but the Kingdom of God.
Whether it’s the fig tree or the temple or the mountain, Jesus is serious about following him with our all and embracing this life he is calling us to live. It’s comprehensive of our whole lives, not segmented portions that we want to protect. It’s an all-in proposition.