Mar. 3, 2017

Pray, Ask, Believe...Forgive, Receive

Mark 11:1-26 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

As they approached Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples, and said to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ you say, ‘The Lord has need of it’; and immediately he will send it back here.” They went away and found a colt tied at the door, outside in the street; and they untied it. Some of the bystanders were saying to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They spoke to them just as Jesus had told them, and they gave them permission. They brought the colt to Jesus and put their coats on it; and He sat on it. And many spread their coats in the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields. Those who went in front and those who followed were shouting:  “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!”

11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple; and after looking around at everything, He left for Bethany with the twelve, since it was already late.

12 On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. 13 Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples were listening.

15 Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves; 16 and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple. 17 And He began to teach and say 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 robbers’ den.” 18 The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching.

19 When evening came, they would go out of the city. 20 As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 21 Being reminded, Peter said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered saying to them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. 24 Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. 25 Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.”


In today’s text Jesus once again emphasizes the importance of our faith; that we must believe in advance that we have already received what we are asking for. In order to do that, we must see beyond the circumstances of this physical realm. We must see beyond the limitations of finite time and space. We must instead see things as they are in heaven, where they are already finished and complete, aligned with and restored to God, through the eternal finished work of the cross. 2 Corinthians 5:7 says:  We walk by faith, not by sight.    To walk by faith is to believe not in what God will do in our circumstances, but rather to believe what Christ has already done. Jesus says:  "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)   Jesus didn’t say He would overcome, He said I have overcome. It is already finished!    If we believe in Christ and believe in the finished work of the cross, then everything we ask for, everything we need, has already been done for us.

Jesus adds another important caveat, to our effective prayer. Along with faith, believing we have received what we ask for, Jesus says:  “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.”      Many people use Matthew 18:15 as there scriptural guide to dealing with offense between believers. There Jesus says:   "If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.”     We have a natural human tendency to want to tell others what they have done wrong, to point out how they have offended us. There is scriptural authority in Matthew 18:15 to do just that. But what Jesus says in today’s text, in Mark 11:25:    “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions,”   must come before we can point out their fault. In order for us to go to them and point out their sin, we must go from the place of having already forgiven them. In Matthew 18:15 Jesus says the purpose of going is not to win, but to win that person back. If we approach someone without having forgiven them, then we are guilty of what Jesus says in Matthew 7:5:  "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.”     If we go to our brother or sister with the log of unforgiveness in our own eye it is impossible for us to accurately point out the speck of their sin or offense. In a similar fashion, when we apologize, when we ask for forgiveness from others, we need to place no stipulations on our apology. We love to turn an apology into another opportunity to point out what others have done wrong. We love to say, I am sorry but… Saying we are sorry but then pointing out what they did wrong is not an apology, it is not the way to forgiveness. In doing that, we still have the log of unforgiveness in our own eye. If we truly want to be forgiven by others there can be no sorry buts.  

In today’s text Jesus says: “whenever you stand praying forgive.”   We are not to stop and go to them we are to forgive as Jesus did on the cross, as He forgave us, not pointing out all that we have done, but rather saying"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."  (Luke 23:34) If we truly forgive others, we won’t feel the need to show them their faults, we will only want to win them back. This principle of first forgiving others, unconditionally, as we stand praying is vital not only for our human relationships, but also as Jesus says because:  “But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.”    To hold and harbor unforgiveness in our hearts is sin. Sin separates us from God. If we pray with unforgiveness in our hearts, the sin of unforgiveness keeps us from the presence of God. If we are separated from God, we cannot see from His heavenly perspective. We are forced to view things from the natural, worldly perspective, where the outcome of our prayers is based on the circumstances we see, rather than on what we cannot see; the realities of the finished work of the cross, what is already accomplished, what Jesus has overcome.

‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name and blessed be the name of Jesus, the name above all names. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. May I see the realities of the finished work of the cross, may I believe in what has already been done. ‘Give us this day our daily bread. You already have provided all that I need, may I be satisfied, thankful for what You give. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Holy Spirit help me to forgive others as Christ forgave me, unconditionally. ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil .For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. You have overcome the world. In the finished work of the cross, I believe that You have given me all that I ask.    Amen.’