On Tuesday Morning, as they were leaving Jerusalem, Jesus and the disciples passed by the same fig tree that Jesus cursed the day before and saw that it was withered. In astonishment, they asked how it was that Jesus was able to do that. The 12 disciples had spent 3 years with Jesus, and witnessed Him perform many miracles, and yet they were still questioning his power. How long have you known Him and witnessed His awesome power but still doubt His abilities?
In any case, Jesus replied,
“Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone that you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too. But if you refuse to forgive, your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins.” Mark 11:22-26 NLT
Now at no fault to the reader, this important lesson on the power of prayer can be easily misunderstood and can lead to a lot of frustration. It reads as though we can ask for anything and get what we want, but it takes a mature believer to know that He is not a magic genie. How disappointing is it when you pray for something and don’t receive? Inexperienced believers will lose faith, and those that never believed use this as some kind of proof that He doesn’t exist.
Jesus gives us one reason clearly in the text, because we don’t first ask/ give forgiveness. We are too consumed with our own wants, and if we are too consumed with our own wants how can we be trusted to give God the glory when our prayers our answered?
There is another, unwritten reason, we won’t get what we receive that experienced believers understand. God will never grant us something that will go against His will, including anything that will hurt us in the long run. You have to learn to ask for the right things. Think back to when you were a child asking permission for something from you parents. You would never dare ask them for something you knew without a doubt they would decline. You know your parents well enough to know what they will grant, and what they wont, even if you don’t understand why. As a parent, you wouldn’t grant something that would hurt your child, nor something that doesn’t fit inline with what you have planned for your child.
- Pharisees challenged His authority: Who are you, Jesus, to tell me what is right or wrong?
- Pharisees question Him about paying taxes: As Jesus teaches, I shouldn’t let my earthly duties get in the way of my Kingdom duties.
- Sadducees ask Him about resurrection after death: Just like the Sadducees only followed the first 5 chapters of the Bible that don’t mention anything about resurrection, I can’t ignore parts of the Bible just because I don’t agree with them.
- Pharisees try to trick Jesus into picking certain commandments over others: I can’t get away with just following laws if I don’t have love in my heart. Jesus says all of Gods commandments are important, and they are based on love.
Jesus then begins to reprimand the religious leaders for their hypocritical actions. Sadly, if I didn’t know better, I would think Jesus was talking about me. He says,
“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees [Insert your name here]. Hypocrite[s]!“
- Shutting the door to the Kingdom of Heaven, Matthew 23:13
- Teaching others to be evil just like me, Matthew 23:15
- Consumed with the legalism of religion and ignoring what is most important: justice, mercy, and faith, Matthew 23:16-24
- Maintaining a clean appearance, when I am really dirty inside, Matthew 23:25-28
- Claiming I know, though my actions show I don’t, Matthew 23:29-26
Tuesday night, Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives and gives the Olivet Discourse which includes prophecies on the end of times and His triumphant return. I love how in this painting everyone has golden halos, except for Judas on the right. I guess that is where I would be sitting.
Through the parable of the bridesmaids, He teaches us to be ready for His return. Through the parable of loaned money, He teaches us that in the meantime, make the most out of what is given to us. Finally, He speaks of final judgment.
“Away with you, cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t even give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me. They they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help?’ And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.” Matthew 25:41-45, NLT
The question, “When did we see you and not help?” just made we realize how many times I discriminate against who I choose to help or bless, depending on who they are. If it was Jesus I wouldn’t hesitate, but if it was a stranger, I would probably think about it twice.
So on this Holy Tuesday, I recognize I am more like the hypocrite Pharisees and Sadducees than anything Christ-like. I pray to forgive those I have a grudge against. I ask God to forgive me for saying I love Him, even though my actions prove that I don’t. I will show God how grateful I am by using the talents He has given me instead of being lazy and letting them waste away. And I promise I will be nicer to strangers.
Tomorrow is Spy Wednesday.