The Bible is at times hard to read. There are times I’m left with emotions of frustration and hurt because I’m asking God, “Why did that happen in the Bible?” “Have you ever encountered things in Scripture that seemed tough or even wrong with harsh judgements that our soft hearts don’t want to consider?” I was in the book of Genesis two weeks ago and it broke my heart to read about some of the hurtful things that happened to women. Also, other examples of scripture that we may have trouble trying to reconcile with includes the “destruction of the firstborn in Egypt in Exodus 11:5 or eliminating the Canaanites in Deuteronomy 20:17,” as Lisa Harper mentions.
Though we come across passages that challenge us and may seem hard to come to grips with, it’s so important that we understand the biblical context so that we can “appreciate the holiness and goodness of God.” That’s why I love the Bible so much! No matter what we are reading, there is good in it. The Bible is pure, holy, and leads us to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.” ~ The Westminster Confession
Let’s take this passage in Mark 11 for example, about the Withered Fig Tree. In week 5 of The Gospel of Mark Bible Study, we are turning the corner and heading into the scene of Jesus’ last week of His earthly life. After Christ’s triumphal entry to Jerusalem on a donkey, the next day Jesus curses a fig tree that He sees.
“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard him say it.” Mark 11:12-14 NIV
At first glance this is hard to understand. I love how Lisa Harper considers what the disciples were thinking about all of this because the narrative does not mention their expressions. They may have wondered aloud if skipping breakfast had made Jesus light-headed, I mean who would fuss at a tree? However, as we dig into scripture and the context this is what we find:
- The fig tree often symbolized Israel’s relationship with God in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 8:13, Hos. 9:10, 16; Joel 1:7; Mic. 4:3-4; Zechariah. 3:10)
- God’s chosen people had stopped producing the real fruit of relationship with Him through prayer and worship and were instead engaged in the ostentatious but spiritually barren practice of ritual and legalism. By killing a showy yet sterile tree, Jesus was making the emphatic point that our Creator will not allow unrepentant sinners masquerading as spiritual folks to flourish indefinitely. (Lisa Harper)
- In all works in the ministry of Jesus, this is the only destructive miracle. God doesn’t approve when there is profession without reality, talk without walk. (David Guzik)
As you study this passage, remind yourself of the goodness of God’s Holy Word, it’s ability to interpret itself, and reveal the holiness of God. Take some time to reflect on the questions below and I will meet you back here next Thursday for week 6. Be Blessed! Be Revealed!
Week 5 The Beginning of His Earthly End
- Mark 11:1-26
- What are some examples of things in Scripture that seemed harsh or even wrong until you learned more about the context?
- How have you come to reconcile these problematic passages?
- What spiritual principles does this passage in Mark 11:22-26 contain regarding prayer and faith?