Have you ever had someone close to you die? Was it a situation where they knew they were going to die, perhaps only having a few months, weeks, even days before their death? I've known several people like this and one thing I can tell you, they didn't waste time. Knowing that they didn't have much of it, they filled their days with the most important things to them.
This is Passion Week, the last days before Jesus' crucifixion and the important thing to note about the Passion Week is that Jesus concentrated on the most important things, the last minute things he needed to teach his disciples.We need to pay careful attention to everything that Jesus did and taught but there is something incredibly powerful about the intensity of this last week.
The first morning after his great entrance into Jerusalem and the clearing of the temple court, we find Jesus entering into Jerusalem again. He had spent the night in Bethany, probably with his friends Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. This place was of some significance to Jesus because according to John this is where we was baptised by his cousin John, it is where he was anointed for his burial, and it was also from here that he ascended to heaven. It was early morning and he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree in full leaf Jesus went to pick some figs:
Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!”Immediately the tree withered. (Matthew 21:18-19)
As a child I always had a problem with this story as it seemed unfair to me. What had the tree done? What the tree had done was disappoint Jesus. The leafs made the promise of fruit on this tree but something was wrong because it had none; it was a non-bearing fruit tree, useless to anyone. However, here was an opportunity to teach one of the most important lessons these disciples, and those to follow, could learn. He spoke to the tree and it immediately withered. Mark states that they didn't notice it had withered until later but regardless of when they noticed the fact was that Jesus spoke to the tree and it obeyed his words.
It was Peter who spoke up:
“Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!” (Mark 11:21)
After all they had witnessed this still surprised them. Come on now, they had witnessed Lazarus coming out of his tomb alive after several days of being buried, simply because Jesus spoke to his dead body. What is a tree withering at the command of this same voice compared to a dead man being called out alive? Regardless, Jesus showed his usual patience and taught them concerning faith:
“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. (Mark 11:22-23)
This was a lesson the disciples would have to rely on for the rest of their lives. It is a lesson most of us have let go of. Come on, tell the truth! When you pray do you believe or do you simply hope? Many people pray without believing, it is more a thing of desperation, like throwing dice and hoping you come up with a seven. It is not a certainty but there is always a chance. That isn't faith.
Jesus said that we would do even greater things than what he did but it requires a people who live by the same faith as Jesus. When Jesus spoke to that tree he knew that his words would cause a reaction. When he told that tree to wither he expected it to wither. He told his disciples that if they spoke and did not doubt but actually expected it to happen that it would be done for them. In other words the power behind your prayer is not you but our heavenly Father. However, our heart, or lack of faith, lack of trust, lack of belief, our lack blocks our Father from doing anything.
We live such empty lives and it is our own failing. Because of our relationship with Jesus we are the most powerful beings on this planet, all of nature must respond to us because of the authority that Jesus has given to us. He told us that our words would cause things to happen because of the authority that is behind those words. He told us to speak to the "mountains" and they would have to respond. Read this carefully and try to understand:
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24)
Believe, not hope, not chance but believe that you have received it and it will be yours. What did James have to say about this?
You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:2-3)
We think we are spiritually minded but we are so off the mark I doubt Jesus can even recognize us. What we accomplish we do with our own hands. The world can't see Jesus because we present our own version of him. So many Christians do not believe in this kind of spiritual authority and power any more. It is like they believe we have been left as orphans and we have to make our own way in the world, as if our Father no longer looks after us, meets our needs or even responds to us. Jesus said: ask, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
Speak to the fruitless trees in your life and tell them to die. Stop wasting your time and get rid of those things that are bearing no fruit. Speak to the "mountains", those things that are blocking your progress, the addictions, the things that are standing in your way to a greater walk, or even the overwhelming challenges in your life. Speak to them and expect them to move out of the way. Speak, believe and receive. Ask whatever you need, make sure it is not from selfish desires, believe that you have received it and it is yours. Understand the authority you have to speak to diseases in people's lives, to speak to addictions, to speak to poverty, to speak to barrenness, to speak to anything that is contrary to God's will and it must obey, coming back into alignment with God's heart.
Some may ask, what if it is not God's will? Let me tell you, if it is not God's will he will tell you just as he told Paul when Paul was praying about some affliction he had. God's response to Paul in that matter was, "My grace is sufficient". Ask and God will not answer with silence as some people teach. Ask and believe and you will receive an answer and there will be times when we have asked out of ignorance, not understanding his will, but he will answer. The longer you operate in faith the more you are able to understand his will but his no's will be few and far between. Some people use the lack of response as an excuse, God is saying no, when in reality it is actually a lack of faith. They ask but they doubt.
We need to shake ourselves out of this spirit of doubt. It's crazy. We have Jesus' words right here in front of us and one thing I know is that Jesus is not a liar. He said it. I believe it. AMEN! We are a powerful nation, the Kingdom of God. The power is not found in our effort but in the will of our Father. Jonathan stated to his armour bearer that, whether my many or by few, salvation belongs to God. When we speak we have all of his authority backing up our words. So this morning, speak to those barren trees and believe you have received. Speak to the mountains and believe you have received. Speak to your needs and the needs of others and believe you have received. It will be given to you. Do you understand. It will be given to you! Jesus said so, and he is no liar. Yes and Amen!
*NOTE: Due to Passion Week, I am setting aside where we are in the gospel of John and will spend the week looking at the last events before Jesus' death.