On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.
And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city.
As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your trespasses”
(Mark 11:12-26 ESV)
Let’s test out a theory of this morning. One of the ideas that has been running around scholarly Christian circles for most of the 19th and 20th centuries is that Matthew and Luke wrote their gospels using some now-lost source most people call “Q”, with the admitted possibility that both gospel writers also had Mark’s gospel to rely on in their writing. Almost everyone today agrees that Mark’s gospel was the earliest.
But that’s not the theory I’m talking about. My theory is that Matthew, Mark, and Luke ended up knowing one another pretty well. Oh, and you can add John into the group too. He was one of the original disciples. Even if we say that Luke knew Mark and not Matthew, we’re still stuck with a terrific overlap of what these guys heard and saw between AD 30 and when the last of them died ca. AD 90. So in my theory there is no need for any additional document “Q”.
Yawn. Ah, scholarship.
What do I bring all this up? I do it because Mark’s gospel doesn’t include a copy of The Lord’s Prayer. Or does it? Look at verses 25 and 26 (26 is not included in some of the most ancient sources). “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” I would call this a sort of proto-Lord’s Prayer.
“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.” What about the other things Jesus taught in the Lord’s Prayer? Where are they in Mark? Well, the prayer begins with talking about God’s holiness. When Jesus cleared the temple of the money-changers he said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations!” The holiness of God is very much on Mark’s mind as he writes here.
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to kill Jesus. But God had a will that could not be changed, and so, once again, “when evening came, they went out of the city.”
“Give us this day our daily bread.” “And lead us not into temptation.” I think the cursing of the fig tree covers both of these. Jesus was hungry. It was not the season for figs. The temptation with which Satan tempted Jesus at the beginning of his ministry is in full effect here. Jesus could have made the tree produce wonderful figs in a flash. But he didn’t. The temptation to take his daily sustenance where none was given may have been great. Instead, Jesus curses the fig tree. Can it be that he would rather have no fig tree available at all rather than fall into the temptation of the Evil One?
These are just conjectures, of course. The real key to the passage is forgiveness. There are three ways we can’t come to The Lord’s Supper: Angry, Arrogant, or Alone. The real import of The Lord’s Prayer has always seemed to me to be that it teaches this one central truth: I must forgive if I want to be forgiven. I have to put away my anger or I can’t forgive or be forgiven. I have to put away my pride and arrogance or I can’t forgive or be forgiven. And I have to recognize that I am not approaching God alone here. For forgiveness to take place, just as with Communion, there have to be two or three gathered.