18 Early in the morning, Jesus was on his way back to Jerusalem. He was hungry. 19 He saw 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!” Right away the tree dried up. 20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree dry up so quickly?” they asked. 21 Jesus replied, “What I’m about to tell you is true. You must have faith and not doubt. Then you can do what was done to the fig tree. And you can say to this mountain, ‘Go and throw yourself into the sea.’ It will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive what you ask for when you pray.” 23 Jesus entered the temple courtyard. While he was teaching there, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “Who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 Where did John’s baptism come from? Was it from heaven? Or did it come from men?” They talked to each other about it. They said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But what if we say, ‘From men’? We are afraid of the people. Everyone believes that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.” Jesus said, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I am doing these things either.
I am struck by the decisive words and conviction of Jesus in contrast to the indecisive and self-interested discussions of the chief priests and elders in these two accounts. I hear Jesus speaking to us who follow him: your faith in me and its expression in words and prayer has power to change things, so be intentional and decisive in what you say and believe for. And I see in the chief priests and elders dialogue amongst each other an indecisive response (“we don’t know”) to Jesus’ questioning that arose out of self-interest and political point scoring.
For me, Jesus is calling my words and my believing to be more decisive, faith-filled, and expectant. The disciples did not expect the withering to be so sudden – Jesus knew his words and his faith had power to literally change things, but He taught His disciples to expect the same for themselves. I need to heed Jesus’ word to me – your faith and its expression in words can make a literal difference around you. And I also hear Jesus saying – self-interest will kill the decisiveness of your words and the power of your faith to truly change things.
God, I thank you that you want us, your people, to make the same kind of difference in the world Jesus did when He was here. His words delivered people for sickness, death, hopelessness, and a God-less existence. This is not about being put under pressure, but about being disciples of Jesus. Our faith, and its expression in words, can really change things for the better. And Lord, keep our hearts from being overcome by self-interest which truly kills the power of faith. Amen
Written by Ps. Rob Waugh