The Lord’s Message:  The Withered Fig Tree

The Lord’s Message:  The Withered Fig Tree
Date:  March 10, 2024
Where:  Tilghman Methodist Church
Scripture Reference:  Mark 11:20-25

            I would like to start off the message this morning by telling you a love story.  It takes place during the war.  A young man enlisted in the army.  Before he left to go fight, he told his girlfriend that he would write to her every day.  The soldier kept his word and wrote to her every day.  He also prayed that he would see her again.  The war ended.  The soldier came home.  His girlfriend was so glad to see him.  She ran up and gave her boyfriend a great big hug and kiss and told them how important it was to her that he had kept his promise to write to her every day.   In fact, she told him that because of him writing to her every day, she met and married the mail man.  What a wonderful love story, don’t you think?  Disappointments!  This life is full of disappointments.  How as faithful believers in Jesus do we handle disappointments?

            Let us pray.

            Please open your pew Bible to page 1573 or for those watching us on Facebook, please open to Mark 11: 12.  Jesus has just triumphantly entered Jerusalem on the back of the colt of a donkey.  The people have cut palm branches, laid their coats on the ground, and shouted “Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!  Hosanna in the highest!”  We would refer to this as the Palm Sunday Celebration.  He leaves the city and journeys about two miles outside of the city to Bethany.  He probably stayed in the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. 

            We are told the next day that as He was leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry.  In verse 13, He saw a fig tree in the distance.  He went over to it and found that it had no fruit on it.  Jesus was disappointed.  In verse 14, He cursed the fig tree, and His disciples heard it. 

 When they walked by the fig tree the next day and saw that it was dead, the disciples were amazed, verses 20-21.  Jesus tells them not to be surprised, but have faith, verses 22-24. 

I would be the first to tell you that prayer works.  I have seen many miracles as the results of prayer.  I have seen people healed by prayers from life threatening diseases, cancer, RSV, infections, and heart disease.  I, myself, am a walking and breathing miracle, because of prayer. 

Jesus says that when you pray, you need to have faith and not doubt, and it will be done.  How many times have you prayed earnestly with faith and what you prayed for did not happen?  The job promotion went to someone else.  The marriage ended in divorce.  The loved one died.  This life is filled with disappointments. 

Yes, when Jesus prayed, Lazarus was brought back after being dead for four days.   People possessed with demons had the demons flee from them.  The sight of the blind was restored.  The mute could talk.  Five thousand men, plus women and children, were fed with a little boy’s happy meal of two small fish and five small loaves of bread.  Jesus even had power over nature.  He calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee. 

Even Jesus prayed earnestly and experienced disappointment.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus earnestly prayed to God, so much so that “his sweat was like drops of blood falling on the ground.”  We find this in Luke 22:39-44.  His prayer to God was not that He would not face the cross, but that God would take away the cup of sorrows.  The cup of sorrows is yours and my sins.  God was placing our sins on His Son who knew no sin.  Then God the Father who could not be around sin, turned away from His Son.  Jesus, who had known direct communication and fellowship with God in heaven and on earth, now had no communication or fellowship with God.  God did not take the cup of sorrows from His Son.  Instead, God sent His angel to strengthen Him to complete God’s plan of salvation. If that was not enough, Jesus was disappointed when He asked His disciples to pray, and they fell asleep.  We find this in verses 45-46.  According to Matthew 26:44, Jesus prayed this same prayer earnestly to God, three times.  “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”

Another disappointment that Jesus experienced was when His own disciple, Judas, betrayed Him.  Jesus chose Judas to be one of His disciples.  I will not accept the belief that Judas was chosen to betray Jesus.  I believe Jesus chose Judas just as He did the others, because Jesus saw something in Judas that would make him a good disciple.  Judas was not chosen to fail.  Even though this was God’s plan, it still must have broken Jesus’ heart when Judas betrayed Him. 

Another disappointment for Jesus was when all His disciples, except for John, deserted Him at the cross.  Jesus knew that His disciples would leave Him.  It must have broken His heart when only John was with Him while He was on the cross.  He prayed in John 17:23.   All but one of the disciples deserted Him at the cross. 

Even the Apostle Paul had disappointments.  Paul was disappointed when John Mark left him and Barnabas in Acts 13:13. This disappointment led to Paul and Barnabas’ friendship being broken before their second missionary journey in Acts 15:36-40. 

Paul experienced many trials and hardships as a missionary for the Lord.  He recounts these in 2 Corinthians 11:24-27.  It was not the trials and hardships that Paul prayed the most to God.  It was instead a physical ailment from which he suffered.  Paul refers to this ailment as “the thorn in the flesh.”  We do not know exactly what this physical ailment was.  Paul prayed earnestly to God to remove this ailment.   In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul explains this. 

What can we learn from Paul and Jesus about how to handle disappointments? 

First, we need to understand that God answers all prayers, maybe not the way that we would have them answered.  We need to pray, following the example of Jesus, that not my will be done, but God’s “will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” 

Second, we need to understand that we do not have the entire picture of the situation.  We are just one puzzle piece of thousands upon thousands of other puzzle pieces and God sees the bigger picture.  We need to trust that God’s purpose and plan is perfect.  We need to remember what God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”

Third, we need to understand that people are going to disappoint us, as we will disappoint them.  We are not perfect, and we do not live in a perfect world.  We are going to face disappointments.   We need to learn to forgive those who disappoint us.  As Jesus said in Mark 11:25, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Christian Contemporary Music Artist, Matthew West, sings a song about facing disappointments.  The song is titled “Don’t Stop Praying.”  I would like to read you the first stanza and the chorus of the song. 

Matthew West:  Don’t Stop Praying

What’s your impossible? Your “I need a miracle”
What’s got you barely hanging by a single thread?
What looks so hopeless now? What weighs down your heart with doubt?
You beg for a breakthrough, but no sign of breakthrough yet

When you’ve cried, and you’ve cried ’til your tears run dry
The answer won’t come, and you don’t know why
And you wonder if you can bow your head even one more time

Don’t stop praying
Don’t stop calling on Jesus’ name
Keep on pounding on Heaven’s door
And let your knees wear out the floor
Don’t stop believing
‘Cause mountains move with just a little faith
And your Father’s heard every single word you’re saying
So, don’t stop praying!

            Disappointments are part of this life.  They will happen in this life.  When they do, let us keep on praying.  Let our prayers be to accept God’s will, to trust in Him and to forgive others.  That, my friends, is how we grow together in Faith. Amen.

March 11, 2024 12:16 pm