Online Worship for Lent Two, Sunday March 5, 2023
Sermon for Lent Two – 3/8/09 & 2/21/16 -- Sunday March 5, 2023
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Mark 11:12-26 (NKJV)
12 Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. 13 And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” And His disciples heard it. 15 So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 16 And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. 17 Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” 18 And the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His teaching. 19 When evening had come, He went out of the city. 20 Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. 21 And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.” 22 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. 23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. 25 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
In the Name of Jesus,
In whom faith trusts,
Through whom faith grows,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Blood –
What do fig trees and faith have in common?
Is it that both are sweet?
Is it that both of them receive strength from the Sun (Son) and live as a result? I suppose we could draw a few parallels silly and otherwise. But since we are looking for a serious answer…
What do fig trees and faith have in common?
If they are healthy and alive…both fig trees and faith produce fruit.
Now not every faith is healthy or alive. Faith draws its strength from that in which it trusts. If I trust in a stone idol or paper money, then my faith relies on something without power…and faith will be powerless.
On the other hand, if the object of my faith is Jesus Christ (and it is), then it has real power. God’s Word assures us that those who believe in Jesus will not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16). God offers me forgiveness for every sin in His Son. Heaven is mine (and yours)!
True Faith – whose object is Christ – is not a stale or stagnant thing. Faith isn’t only a matter of the mind and heart, but also something that is borne witness to by what a person does. True Faith – whose object is Jesus Christ – is like a healthy and living fig tree…it produces fruit…which results in more fruit.
It’s like this – once God tells me what He has done for me in His Son and the Holy Spirit enables me to trust in Him…I can’t help but tell others about what God has done for me. I know that if I tell others what Christ has done for them, the Spirit of God will use that Word to work in their hearts -- producing faith and fruits in their lives as He wills.
I can’t do it myself – I need strength to speak. So even as a fruit tree receives nutrients and energy from God through Sun and soil; we believers receive strength of God to serve Him through the Gospel of Christ. It is as Jesus once said (John 15:4-5):
4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
Let’s keep these things in mind as we consider the Word of God before us this morning. It’s the second Sunday in Lent and we come to the events of the second day of Holy Week, the Monday after Palm Sunday. We learn of fig trees and faith.
12 Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. 13 And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” And His disciples heard it.
When we lived in Corpus Christi, Texas, there was a fig tree right behind the church. I don’t remember how often it bore figs or when…I only remember that I didn’t care for them, while Alice and the kids liked them. It probably just bore figs once a year.
In Palestine, some varieties of fig trees bear fruit 3 times a year. They are also different in another respect – they first bear figs and afterward gradually produce leaves.
So perhaps you can understand why when Jesus saw a fig tree full of leaves, He expected to find fruit on the tree. Jesus didn’t always use his powers as God…and He didn’t need to in this case for the outward signs all said that the tree should have fruit.
When He found none, Jesus said: “No one will eat fruit from you ever again.” This was not petty anger. The tree was worthless and was to become a lesson for the disciples. Even as Jesus expected fruit from the fig tree, so God also expected his people’s faith to be fruitful.
There was a great lack of faith and love on display in their place of worship, as the words that follow bear witness.
15 So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.
When we come into church we enter the building proper. There is no secret place here; there is no ‘holy of holies’, no place off limits except to the pastor.
It was different in those days. When Jesus went into the temple, He entered the temple grounds, not the building itself.
It was unlawful for anyone except the priests to enter the temple sanctuary. The people didn’t worship inside the temple itself, but in the area surrounding it, which was divided into different courts (see insert).
The Court that surrounded the Temple itself was called the court of the Priests. The daily sacrifices took place on this innermost raised court.
The Court outside it was called the Court of Israel (or the men’s court), and only Jewish men stood and worshipped there.
The Court outside it was the Court of the Women (where the women worshipped).
Finally, the outermost court was called the court of the Gentiles. This furthest outermost court was the only place that the Gentiles (non-Jews) could worship and pray.
BUT…even if they wanted to worship and pray on this day they would be unable…because a market had been set up by the Sadducees. There salesmen were bartering and selling. There were tables and animals and the clinking of money. Jesus had cleansed the Temple of this problem at the beginning of His ministry (John 2:13-17), but the practice had resumed.
God’s house had become a place of merchandise. They took from the Gentiles their place to worship and pray and greed ruled the day in the very house of God…dishonoring the LORD God.
This building is not the same as that temple, yet we still show God respect by the way we conduct ourselves while we are here.
We should take care the way we dress, lest we plant evil thoughts in the hearts of fellow worshippers.
We should take care that nothing disturbs our worship or that of another.
We should take care the way we talk, lest we bring dishonor to the Savior’s name.
We should remember that our first purpose is worship; social interaction takes a distant second seat.
We should take our faith and church life seriously – because it is serious.
16 And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. 17 Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’”
There were even some who used the Temple Courts as a through-way. God wanted them to stop, to pray and worship. Yet some used the temple as a shortcut to other destinations.
God forbid that we ever consider His house just a stop on our way to eating out! We first come to leave our sin and guilt at Jesus’ feet. We then seek to build up our faith by receiving the Bread of Life. The LORD Jesus Christ is always present where two or three are gathered in His name – not only when the Sacrament of the Altar is celebrated.
Therefore, may we never hinder those blessings by thoughtless or faithless worship! Instead, may the Spirit of God so enable us to bring forth the fruits of faith in thoughtful worship from a faithful heart!
20 Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. 21 And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.”
Jesus and His disciples returned to Bethany for the evening. As they returned to Jerusalem the next morning (Tuesday) Peter noticed that the fig tree had withered away. The Lord Jesus said nothing about the tree, but used the event to speak to His disciples about their faith, their trust in Him.
Israel’s leaders and some of its people had fallen from faith. They were in God’s house on a regular basis, but were not there for Him. They were faithless, and like the fig tree produced no fruit (Hebrews 11:6). Jesus didn’t want the same to happen to His Disciples, nor to us.
So He, the very Son of God, said to them:
“Have faith in God.
Faith in God is first and above all trust. It’s more than words, more than saying: “I believe in God” for a lot of people say that but don’t rely on Him for anything. It’s more than saying: “I believe that Jesus died on the Cross” -- a lot of people know about the historical event, but don’t believe that His death was the once for all sacrifice that makes them right with God.
Faith is first trust, complete confidence in Him and His promises – especially those made through Christ. It is to be a trust that knows no doubt, that never thinks: “That’s impossible.” Jesus illustrated the confidence of faith in this way:
23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
Faith (that draws its strength from Christ) says: “Everything is possible with God.” Faith is strong because (and only because) it clings to Christ – who is strong.
So does this mean that we should all together focus our mental energies and attempt to move the Rocky Mountains? If we are unable to do so, does that mean we don’t have faith? NO...but we should never doubt that if it really is God’s will, that it would happen.
More than this, Faith (that relies upon Christ) doesn’t look to itself to move mountains…but to Christ.
Faith is complete confidence in Christ.
So if I have doubts and moments of weakness, does that mean that I don’t have faith? NO, we are not perfect people; we need to be built up in faith, strengthened again and again. Our sinful natures, the world around us and the Devil Himself set out daily to undermine and weaken our confidence in Christ. We need to be built up.
Faith, like a tree, also needs regular nourishment.
There are times when earthly things and attitudes get in the way of our faith and need to be removed. Even as a fruit tree is more fruitful when dead branches are removed, so things that get in the way of our living out our faith need to be removed, and the LORD Himself may remove them.
Finally, faith also freely forgives. A heart that refuses to forgive another is a dead heart, not one filled with the love of Christ.
25 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
One sure sign that faith in Christ rules in your heart is willingness to forgive others when they sin against you. It’s hard to imagine how those who have been forgiven a debt…they could never pay…would refuse to forgive a debt that can be paid.
All of our sins stand forgiven in Christ. As fruitful children of God we will also gladly forgive those who sin against us.
Those who refuse to forgive might be likened to a fig tree without fruit…living on borrowed time.
May God, who has granted us true faith…which looks to Christ and is strengthened by Him…also cause that faith to be revealed a fruitful and living faith…to the Glory of His Name.