The Perfect Servant in Mark’s Gospel: His Destiny

On the Tuesday[1] of the “passion week” the Lord Jesus demonstrated His unique Authority. Two closely linked narratives revealed the hypocrisy of the nation and the Lord’s attitude to it (11:12-19). Wednesday would be largely a day of Arguments and Answers divided between the Temple (11:27-12:44) and the Mount of Olives (13:1-37). It commenced, however, on the Lord’s walk into Jerusalem from Bethany with a narrative closely tied to the events of the previous day.

In our last article we saw that, on Tuesday, a Tree was Cursed (11:12-14) and the Temple was Cleansed (vv15-19). The nation of Israel had a façade of religiosity but lacked the fruit of reality. This was wholly unacceptable to the Lord, and His authority was expressed in His actions. Wednesday began with some instruction from the Lord to His disciples drawn from the fig tree.

The Teaching Is Communicated (11:20-26)

The disciples are confronted by the Aftermath of the Lord’s words to the fig tree. “And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots” (v20).[2] All the disciples had heard the Lord’s pronouncement: “No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever” (v14). However, upon seeing the effect of the Lord’s words, Peter exclaims in surprise, “Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away” (v21).

The Lord doesn’t explain the meaning behind His miracle but focuses rather on the power by which it was performed. Peter’s Astonishment (v21) was because of the evidence of the effectiveness of the Lord’s words. The Lord’s response, a gentle rebuke to Peter, reveals the secret of power in God’s service.

The power to perform extraordinary feats is in God. The Lord makes a two-fold Appeal to His disciples: “Have faith in God” (v22) and “when ye stand praying, forgive” (v25). If they were to be effective in their service they must exercise faith and forgiveness.

“Have faith in God” (v22). True faith is a response to revelation given (Rom 10:17). To trust in God is to rightly respond to what He has revealed of Himself; it demands a proper understanding of God’s character and ways. Once revelation has been given, then faith can be exercised. The Lord explains the result of such faith, “For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith” (v23). When we act in accordance with revelation given by God, with our confidence in Him, there is no limit to the power available.

It is impossible for us, acting independently, to wither a fig tree with a word, never mind attempting to cast Mt. Olivet into the sea! However, to God, mountain moving is no problem. “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (v24). If it is true that God can move mountains for those who have faith in Him, then it is incumbent on us that we access such power. This demands believing prayer.

So, faith is respondence to revelation. We can only be sure of experiencing God’s power when we are aligned with His person and Word. Also, faith is dependence upon God, which is expressed in prayer. Finally, faith is confidence that God will, as we are aligned with Him and bring our requests to Him, give us our requests.

The Lord continues, “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (vv25-26).

In addition to faith, the Lord appeals for forgiveness. But why does the Lord introduce this thought here? Some have thought that these verses are scribal additions not in the original text. However, there is no textual reason to conclude that this is true. It must be remembered that the background of the Lord’s teaching here was His judgment of the fig tree and the temple. And the illustration He uses of divine power concerns the casting of Mt. Olivet into the sea. These are judicial acts which, when reflecting the character of God, are perfectly legitimate. However, at the human level, justice often spills over into vengeance or malice. This the Lord is preserving against.

“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psa 66:18). Our prayers should not rise from an injured spirit seeking vengeance for wrongs received. The impact of our prayers depends upon communion with the Father. Forgiveness is essential because if we don’t forgive, “neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mar 11:26). A bitter, unforgiving spirit will detract inexorably and immeasurably from our effectiveness for God.

Power in service comes from God and is available to all the Lord’s servants. We access such power as we pray and work in faith. This means we respond to what God has revealed of Himself and act accordingly. Our prayers must be informed by God’s revelation and offered with the assurance that God will answer. We must also pray and work in close fellowship with our Father, which demands a forgiving attitude toward others.

A final point to be made is that, while the Lord referred here to a literal mountain, there is little doubt that His instruction is intended as an encouragement with much wider application. We too can experience the moving of mountains as we serve in fellowship with God and persevere in believing prayer.

[1] Days/dating follow Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1977), 143.

[2] Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV.