Turning Bitter Fruit into Better Fruit
As we approach God’s Word this morning let’s pray that God will give us a discerning spirit and a receptive heart. Pray that the Holy Spirit will illuminate for us the truth we are about to read. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s empowerment enabling us to move from merely hearing the Word to become doers of this truth we are about to study.
If you haven’t already, find your way in your print Bible in your Bible App on your smart device to the Gospel of Mark, the first written book of the NT but actually placed Second in the list behind the Gospel of Matthew.
As we read think about this question: What does better fruit look like and taste like?
STAND WITH ME AS WE READ TO HONOR OUR HOLY GOD AND HIS WORD
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.”
PLEASE BE SEATED
Illustration: A South African woman stood in an emotionally charged courtroom listening to white police officers acknowledge the atrocities they had perpetrated in the name of apartheid. Officer van de Broek acknowledged his responsibility in the death of her son. Along with others, he had shot her eighteen-year-old son at point-blank range. He and the others partied while they burned his body, turning it over on the fire until it was ashes.
Eight years later, van de Broek and others arrived to seize her husband. Hours later, van de Broek came to fetch the woman. He took her to a woodpile where her husband lay bound. She was forced to watch as they poured gasoline over his body and ignited the flames that consumed his body. The last words her husband said were “Forgive them.”
Now van de Broek stood awaiting judgment. South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission asked the woman what she wanted. “Three things,” she said. “I want Mr. van de Broek to take me to the place where they burned my husband’s body. I would like to gather up the dust and give him a decent burial.
“Second, Mr. van de Broek took all my family away from me, and I still have a lot of love to give. Twice a month, I would like for him to come to the ghetto and spend a day with me so I can be a mother to him.
“Third, I would like Mr. van de Broek to know that he is forgiven by God and that I forgive him, too. I would like someone to lead me to where he is seated so I can embrace him and he can know my forgiveness is real.”
As the elderly woman was led across the courtroom, van de Broek fainted. Someone began singing “Amazing Grace.” Gradually everyone joined in.  Larson, C. B., & Ten Elshof, P. (2008). 1001 illustrations that connect (p. 85). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
If you will look back in the chapter, you find the context being that of Jesus’ Triumphal entry the week or so before his crucifixion. The cursing of the fig tree and the cleansing of the Temple happen during what is called Holy Week.
See the fig tree had long stood in the OT (Jeremiah, Hosea, Micah) as a symbolic representation of the nation of Israel and their obedience (or lack thereof). Jesus, in the cursing of the tree, is essentially passing judgement upon the Nation, more specifically the religious leaders and the Temple as a failed Covenant; a system that had long been defiled by the Jewish religious leaders through their man-made religious rituals, through the money changing chaos, a system failing to live up to the spirit of the Mosaic laws, a failing system of continuous sacrifices unable to produce fruit because it was unable to save anyone.
Jesus seeing no fruit in the Temple and seeing now fruit on the tree he curses the one as a symbol of the curse coming soon upon the other.
Last week as we took communion together I repeated the words of Jesus spoken during the Last Supper observed a day or so after this incident. We read that as he took the cup he said, “This cup is the New Covenant in My blood...”
By New Covenant Jesus meant what we consider to be Christianity, a better and Divine replacement for the failed and flawed Old Covenant.
We see here in the lesson of the fig tree, explained by Jesus is Christianity, This New Covenant is:
Based on our faith in God to overcome insurmountable odds and obstacles (most importantly our sins)
Sustained by grace through our trusting belief in God’s provision
Characterized by our forgiveness of others having realized the depth of God’s forgiveness of us
After figs are harvested in mid-August to mid-October, the tree will then sprout buds lasting through the winter, which begin to swell in to small green knops in early spring then sprouting leaves in late April.
One who is local to a region known for fig trees knows this and comes to the tree assuming they should be able to find the beginnings of fruit, not mature fruit yet but eatable fruit.
Jesus saw a tree full of promises -signs of fruit but found no fulfillment of the promise - no fruit
The tree, to all who could see professed to offer fruit but did not practice giving fruit.
The reason this lesson is so vital or necessary for those of us who are professing Christians is that the whole cry of the NT is that professing Christ-followers are to be known by their fruit.
8 My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples.
Jesus expects His disciples to prove themselves by their fruit, but the lesson is that if you only manifest outward signs of fruit those are empty promises to the world.
The tree represented the Temple. The Temple represented the means of approach to God. Christians are now describe in 1 Corinthians 6:16, 19 as the Temple of the Living God. Not to put this wrongly, but in one sense we are a means of approach to God.
Your forgiveness of sin committed against you is the feature of faith that comes as close to perfect as possible in representing God’s nature to the people around you who are unforgiven and far from God in their sin against him.
You are never more Christlike than when you are forgiving, and you are never more ungodly than when you harbor bitterness, resentment, and animosity in your un-forgiveness.
So, when an unbeliever looks to you wanting to taste better fruit than what the world offers, and they find no fruit or even worse they find the bitter fruit of unforgiveness, then you are nothing more than a deceptive fig tree.
Not only does unforgiveness affect the people around the one who is withholding forgiveness, it also has such a negative affect on the unforgiving person as well.
“Unforgiveness is a punisher, but it doesn’t deliver punishment to the person who sinned; unforgiveness punishes the person who was sinned against.” - James McDonald
In his teaching on this same passage, McDonald makes the point that, “in the life of a truly forgiven person (Christian), unforgiveness cannot long exist. The lack of resolution creates such misery in the heart of a forgiven person, such turmoil, that he has to forgive.”
Forgiveness is something every human wants but too often many are not as generous with forgiveness as they would like God and others to be with them.
But…v.26…don’t see this as saying forgiveness of others is the means of your salvation, God forgiving you. As McDonald said, “it’s not the plan of salvation but it is the proof of your salvation.” God expects your forgiveness of others to be the first fruit produced in your life for him as evidence of his forgiveness of you.
I heard Claude King while discussing his book, Come to the Lord’s Table, say, “There is nothing that can be done to a Christian that should not and cannot be forgiven.”
We always have to forgive everyone for everything. Why? Because God in forgiving a Christian, never held onto any sin as the one He couldn’t forgive, so if we are unforgiving of others then we cannot justifiably declare to be forgiven by God.
So, what is forgiveness: It is you (the offended) making willful choice to release the offender from the obligation/debt created by their offense. And just like God did for you on the cross, the offended person (YOU) funds the forgiveness of the offender
Now before we go any further, I know what you are thinking, but you must understand forgiveness has nothing to do with emotions and feelings, because every ounce of human emotions in you is screaming, “I cannot forgive that person for what was done to me.” Most everything in you is trying to keep you from forgiving, and one powerful force outside you as well - satan. That’s why, like true Biblical love, forgiveness is a decision on your part free of emotions.
Do you think the South African woman who had her loved ones burned alive felt like forgiving that man? Absolutely not.
How do you know if you are being unforgiving? Sometimes like pride, we think we are not when actually we are. So how can we test ourselves?
Based on Jesus lesson here in Mark 11 - Look at your prayer life:
Is My Prayer Life
Is My Prayer Life
Is it filled with unanswered prayers?
Yes! Then, are you praying expecting God has the power and will to answer your prayers.
Yes, but no answers!! Then are you praying God’s will be done and His will is overriding your desires (like Jesus in the Garden and Paul about the thorn in the flesh)
Yes, but still no answers!!! Then ask yourself is there something and someone (including yourself) you are not forgiving.
Yes!!!! Then your prayers with faith must be equalled by your forgiveness. Make the choice to forgive it and see your prayers answered.
Faith is the choice to release the debt and the burden.
Now I know what else you are thinking, “I want to preacher, but I just can’t do it. The hurt is too bad. The pain is too deep. The wound is too big. The time is too short. The person is too unrepentant.” None of that matters. Those things are obstacles to be overcome by faith in the power of God.
Faith is the opposite of fear
the biggest obstacle to forgiveness is fear (that you will be hurt again, that the person will not receive it right, that you will have to do something uncomfortable, etc.)
thus faith is intricately connected to forgiveness.
Faith is the choice to trust Jesus as your savior and provider despite everything to the contrary, and expecting from Him what cannot be expected from the world
thus forgiveness is the choice to release the offender from the debt despite everything to the contrary the world and others are telling you in saying don’t forgive doing something the world is not expecting you to do.
I believe that is why Jesus precedes the teaching on forgiveness with the teaching on mountain moving faith.
Now of course the mountain throwing statement is a hyperbole for the impossible being done through faith in God who can accomplish the impossible.
So not only is faith in God’s power to work required for effective prayer it is also required for forgiveness of others. vs. 23 & 25 -suggests to us that God is willing to share with us his divine power to accomplish both also that he expects us to take the initiative in beginning the journey.
For those who have faith, the impossible is achievable - even you forgiving the wrong done to you.
Conclusion: The prayers of bitter people will never break through the walls of their own bitterness, neither will love for others who need Jesus the most. If the the thing that governs your heart the most is bitterness then there exist a barrier between you and God and between you and others.
Bitterness is a fruit no one wants to taste. Turning bitter fruit into better fruit begins with your choice of forgiveness trusting in the power of God to enable you to supernaturally do it. Forgiveness is supernatural.
Let this help you as you make the choice to forgive:
Forgiveness is not ignoring the sin as if it wasn’t wrong
is not enabling the offender to keep offending you
is not dependent on their repentance
is not removing any consequences of the hurt done
is not overlooking any patterns of abuse
is not fully forgetting the pain of the hurt only fully releasing yourself from the one who hurt you (unforgiveness chains you to the person you won’t forgive)
Forgiveness is only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit - so begin by asking for it to forgive and trust that he will.