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May 29 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Meditations In Mark – chapter 11 05/28/2023



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome to our RefleXion Community.  May the Spirit of the Lord be with you!

Thank you, Jim, for the beautiful and important message last week from the book of Micah.  I’m sharing two more verses from Micah that illustrate two kinds of power:  human and spiritual. First: “What sorrow awaits you who lie awake at night, thinking up evil plans. You rise at dawn and hurry to carry them out, simply because you have the power to do so.” And “But as for me, I am filled with power–with the Spirit of the LORD. I am filled with justice and strength.”

When Chuck is performing a wedding, he might say, “by the power vested in me…”  When you want to be able to make decisions for someone else you might get power of attorney.  There are many kinds of human power.  And then there’s dynamis power (from which we get our words dynamite and dynamic).

Today is the celebration of Pentecost, 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus walked the earth after the grave for 40 days, and then, before He ascended to heaven (to sit at the right hand of the power of God by the way) He told the disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, when they would be empowered.  They gathered, and they were baptized with this new kind of power, dynamis power.  And then they shared it with others—for the rest of their lives. 

Dynamis power as defined is active, potent, effective, and energetic.  It’s always looking for a place to display its power; it is active.  It is potent, having might and influence.  It is effective; it does what it sets out to do. It is energetic, pouring out vitality and life.  This power raised Jesus from the dead.  This power was given to the disciples at Pentecost. This power raises us from the dead.  It is given to us in the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit in you and in me is powerful:  active, potent, effective, and energetic.  So, what do I need power to do?  What do you need power to do? 

Let’s pray: Father, You gave us Your Son, Jesus the Christ; and You gave us the Holy Spirit to   empower us and to unite us, to make us one with You and with each other.  May the work You have commissioned each one of us to do come to its fullness; may the dynamic power of the Spirit remain with us and empower us to live in compassion, wisdom, truth, influence—everything that You have intended for us. We make space in our hearts and in our lives for Your work.  Come Holy Spirit and fill us to overflow for the sake of the world.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.
And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. 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 se 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 he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple . . . . And he was teaching them 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.” Mark 11:11-17 (Please read through verse 25)

Intro: The chapter begins with Jesus’ dramatic entrance into Jerusalem

But first, he gives instructions to two disciples regarding the colt he was going to ride
– imagine this: the disciples go find the colt and begin untying it,
• wouldn’t the bystanders assume they were stealing it
◦ so Jesus instructed them to say,
The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately
• how does that make sense?
◦ would the bystanders know the two disciples were referring to Jesus?
◦ or would they assume the disciples knew the actual owner? (the “lord” or “master” of the colt)
• is Jesus telling them how to “borrow” a colt and get away with it?
– there is another, better lesson here
• they were on a mission, and if anything went wrong,
◦ they would not have Jesus there to resolve it for them
◦ so what would they do?
• Jesus arranged it, so even though they would not have him, they would have his word
◦ and his word would guide them
◦ in a way, he’s preparing them for when he would be gone
My meditation: “God gives himself to us in his word, and his word is always with us. Hang onto it!”

Mark gave the bulk of the chapter a specific arrangement (vv. 11-25)

It moves back and forth from the temple to the fig tree, from the fig tree to the temple, etc.
– Mark creates a connection between the temple and the tree, so the one reveals something about the other
• first Jesus goes into the temple and looks around–that’s all
◦ the next morning he sees the tree and goes to it for fruit
but he found nothing but leaves — it was all show and no go
◦ like sometimes people give us nothing but talk, or nothing but cliches, or nothing but platitudes
• then Jesus did something that seems completely out of character — he cursed the fig tree
My meditation: “What Jesus says to the fig tree evokes a peculiar effect. Addressing it as ‘you’ personifies the tree, as if it understood him and was responsible for disappointing him. When I was young, I remember reading this and feeling sorry for the tree. In this scene, the fig tree is more than a tree. If, by this point in the story, we have learned anything from Mark’s gospel, we know that truth is hidden everywhere and things are not always what they seem. Will we have eyes to see what is happening here?”
◦ the disciples took note of what Jesus said to the tree
◦ that’s all I want to say about this for now

Going from the tree, Jesus entered the temple again
– only this time he makes a scene
• he had gone to the tree looking for figs
◦ then, he went into the temple looking for—what?
◦ people encountering God, perhaps, and especially in prayer
• what did he find? commerce and exploitation
◦ his quotation was suited perfectly to what was happening
My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations
◦ visitors from other nations had to change currency to pay the temple tax
◦ and some had to purchase offerings that were approved by the priests
– rather than a house of prayer, Jesus found a ring of thieves

Again, going from the temple Jesus and disciples came to the fig tree
– they were surprised to see it had died and withered overnight
• by associating the temple and tree, Mark has uncovered a parable
◦ the tree was destined for one thing: to produce figs
◦ temple was destined to be a house of prayer for all nations
• if a fig tree is healthy, it is going to produce figs
◦ that is its nature, that’s what it was created to do
And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind (Gen 1:11)
◦ but now we learn of a fig tree without figs and house of prayer without prayer
– when we get to chapter 13, we’ll see that a day or two later
as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down (Mk. 13:1-2)
• the exterior of temple, like the fig tree, looked wonderful
◦ and like the fig tree, would suffer a similar fate
My meditation: “Mark does not waste words. He notes that the fig tree was withered ‘to its roots’ for a reason. Roots and fruits of a tree are frequent biblical allusions. The bad fruit in the temple was a problem that went to its roots.”

Jesus used the withered tree to give his disciples instructions regarding prayer

Prayer was the fruit he did not find in the temple
– I think Jesus wanted to give his disciples incentive to pray
• whenever I have read this passage, three phrases stand out
“Have faith in God”
My meditation: “I think it is a universal human trait to look for a key to unlock a door to supernatural resources. The entire industry of psychics, palm readers, fortunetellers, Shamans, and so on is built on this desire. The world wants to tap whatever power can make its dreams come true. Some Christians believe that they have found the key here in what Jesus says about prayer.
Imagine what would happen if that was what Jesus meant when he said, ‘Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.’ There would be complete chaos. On the same street one person would ask for rain and another for clear skies and another for a cool breeze and another perfect calm. Someone would ask for more daylight and another would ask for longer nights so they could get more sleep. And so on and on.
As students, Jesus’ disciples have not been quick to learn that there is a spiritual revelation within his teaching that is hidden behind his literal words. I should, at least, be cautious so that I don’t miss something bigger and more important than using prayer to get whatever I want.”

My meditation (Two hears ago): “Barb and I have been watching a TV series in which a young man is given the ability to release a blast of energy. The first time he discovered this, it happened by accident. Later, when he tried to make it happen, he couldn’t. Obviously his effort was useless. I felt that if he would relax and let the energy flow through him, it could happen again. At that moment I felt impressed that this was an important lesson.
The next morning I felt the same impression when I read Jesus’ words, “Have faith in God.” Jesus says that with faith, I can tell a mountain to jump in the ocean and it will. I’m not really interested in doing that, but what if I’m going to ask God to heal a friend who has cancer? When I pray, do I need to tense up all my muscles, tighten my jaw, concentrate until I give myself a headache? Would that help me pluck up the faith to release the power of God?
Human energy can be graced by God, but it is not grace. Grace flows. We can be channels of grace, but that is all. Grace is effortless.
Have faith in God.’ By that Jesus is telling us more than ‘believe in God.’ He tells us to trust God. If you cannot walk, is it really so difficult to let someone carry you? I need to get my mind out of God’s way. Trust does not require effort, but surrender. Let grace come, and it will. Open yourself to God, and his grace will flow.”

“Whatever you ask in prayer believe”
In 2017, I wrote a long and labored meditation on vv. 22-24
– I’ll spare you the first eight paragraphs
My meditation: “How humbling all of this is for me. But if humbling, then I suppose it is good for me; even if it doesn’t feel good. How incomplete I am—and after all this time. How fragmented and riddled with holes. I am hopeless.
[Then I imagined this conversation with Jesus]
‘Yes, so true. You’re hopeless.’
‘What, Lord? You agree with me?’
‘Yes, I do. That is why I saved you; why I watch over you; why I reveal these things to you; and why I have been patiently guiding your slow progress. In yourself, you are hopeless. But I love you and you will always find your hope in Me. Now what is it that you want?’
‘Lord, I want eyes that see, ears that hear, and a heart that does not doubt.’
‘Very well. You have asked for what you want and it’s yours. And I am yours, and you are Mine.”

“Whenever you stand praying, forgive”
My meditation: “Jesus raises the bar as high as it can go when he uses the words ‘anything’ and ‘anyone’ (‘forgive, if you have anything against anyone’) I am certain that everyone comes to an hour in their life when they cannot do this.”
[Early in 2020] “The Lord’s instruction that when we pray we must forgive is familiar. It is what he stressed when teaching the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 (vv. 14-15). What is unusual here is the context. Yes, he’s saying the same thing about forgiveness, but not in the context of an everyday sort of prayer like the Our Father. Here he is teaching the disciples about moving mountains, working miracles. Even in this context, he insists that forgiveness is a necessary facet of prayer.”
[Later, that same year] “I read in Hannah Arendt this morning that Jesus ‘likened the power to forgive to the more general power of performing miracles, putting both on the same level and within [our] reach.’ And in a footnote she adds, ‘faith will move mountains and faith will forgive; the one is no less a miracle than the other, and the reply of the apostles when Jesus demanded of them to forgive seven times in a day was: “Lord, increase our faith.”’
I find than when I am aware of being in God’s presence or when I’m aware of Jesus’ love for me, it is easier to forgive.”

Conclusion: I’ll sign off with a meditation that is not tied to anything in particular

My meditation: “I feel that Mark has given us a ‘warmer feeling’ for Jesus’ interaction with individuals than Matthew or Luke. Like he was with the first leper he healed, or blind Bartimaeus, or the rich young man whom he loved. Perhaps this reflects what Mark most wanted his readers to receive from the story of Jesus; that he cares, he comes close, he touches us.”

This is how I want to know and experience Jesus every day,
in his care, his nearness, and his touch

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