Todays readings… Exodus 26, Psalm 79&80, Mark 11.
There is a puzzling statement by Jesus in today’s 11th chapter of Mark. Jesus makes a triumphant entry into Jerusalem creating much speculation. He curses a fig tree and it withers; Peter expresses astonishment when they see it the next morning (v.21). God’s fig tree (Joel 1 v.7) was to dramatically wither in that generation.
In response to Peter, Jesus simply says, “Have faith in God.” [v.22] And what a great measure of faith by the faithful was needed as the terrible events Jesus predicted unfolded in and around Jerusalem in that generation..
Now, looking at our situation in 2019, what a great measure of faith will be needed amongst us as our world starts falling apart. Jesus foretold that God, would bring on the world a time of “such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect … he shortened the days.”
These are words, expressed in the ‘tense’ of God’s time and we will read them this Sunday in Mark ch. 13 from v.19. One day – maybe soon – we will read them with a sense of awed anticipation – mixed with fear – we must then make sure we remember Jesus’ simple but so meaningful answer to Peter, “Have faith in God.”
Next we notice another strange statement by Jesus, “I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” [v.24] Is the tense wrong here – “you have received” in the past tense? No, the Gk tense, by all accounts is in the past tense, so what does Jesus mean? We conclude he is saying – look at the things you have asked and received in the past! For us, this is both personal and the prophecies we have now seen to be fulfilled and, as a result, we pray with confidence convinced God is in control and he will continue to act.
Finally we noted how the next verse tells us to make sure “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.” There will be an even greater need for believers to be in harmony and to “stand praying” – and in every other posture – as our world starts to fall apart – and maybe this year – 70 years after Israel was restored as a nation..
The Gk word does not mean “stand” in the physical sense, it is the only time this word occurs in the Gospels, but Paul uses it 7 times. Two examples: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” [1 Cor. 16 v.13] and “I may hear of you … that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith …” [Philpns 1 v.27]. Let us all be certain that our prayers will be answered because we have past experiences to build upon and we will therefore “stand firm in the faith.”