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A Fig for Figments: Faith Moves Mountains
FAITH not FICTION
The words of Jesus Christ in Mark 11, concerning moving mountains, and cursing a fig tree because, out of season, it did not present fruit, are obviously massive. Whatever can move mountains has to be, in force and in other magnitudes, both vast and concerted; and it must be directable, for the mountain has to go to the appropriate place: so it must be apt as well, and not drop it on a city for example.
In the mountain moving business, it is important to choose the right dumping ground.
What was the occasion of Christ's utterance ? There are those who might not know His word, and others who, not unwisely prefer precision, so here it is, first.
"Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.
"And Peter, remembering, said to Him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away."
"So Jesus answered and said to them,
Have faith in God. 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. Therefore I tell you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses."
On the occasion of the Messiah's visit to the Temple, His Father' house, after His triumphal entry, parts of Psalm 118 were sung even by children, and it was obvious that He was being given a reception fit for the Messiah. The key words intoned being these: "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord" and "Blessed is the kingdom of our father, David," a fact which would not disturb the authorities so much as the fact that it was ON CHRIST'S ENTRY it was sung, so that HE was made the approved and praised recipient of the kingdom's power and authority.
At the same time, in the same Psalm, it is clear that there is a stone which the builders reject (118:22), one massive and mighty, one on which the temple will rest as the chief corner stone; so that here is the Messiah Himself, coming seated on an ass's colt, as Christ did on that occasion, surrounded both with praise and with officious hearts in priestly garb, keen to reject, and so to fulfil the verse 22, which was NOT noted as sung! That was the invisible part of the performance!
The royal welcome being painfully clear to the priests, they requested the disciples to have the people cease their paeans of praise, to stop the intimations, so clearly intended. Was not Christ rejected most obviously by the tirelessly confrontational priests, scribes and Pharisees! So far from being received, He was the subject of plotting and probing, tricks and traps, and that with considerable vehemence (cf. Luke 11:51-54).
How they suffered at this praise; and how much more the people were to suffer because the authorities were suffered to condemn Him! But all of that, it was not merely as planned, but even as written. SO wise is God, that however tireless man may be in evil, He overturns it for good; and even in their evils, He can predict their mutinous scurries so that they look both awkward, arrogant and futile.
He suffers ? But of course: love is prepared for that; but there is never any lack of power, with God - or wisdom! Let us return to Luke 11, too their frustrated endeavours to intimidate Him.
"Then one of the lawyers answered and said to Him, 'Teacher, by saying these things You reproach us also.
"And He said,
Woe to you also, lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.
Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. n fact, you bear witness that you approve the deeds of your fathers;
for they indeed killed them, and you build their tombs.
Therefore the wisdom of God also said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,’ that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple.
Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation. Woe to you lawyers!
For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.
"And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things, lying in wait for Him,
and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him."
The hatred was clear, the odium was public, the plotting could not fail to be noted, at least in their scowls, howls and conferences, their massive efforts to unseat His majesty and fray His words.
Therefore in the scenario, wicked priests and scribes, Pharisees and authorities were seeking to destroy, entrap and crush the people's Messianic hero, and action-affirming Son of God.
This reflected on their probity, their reality, their hypocrisy; and the only solution was to dissolve Christ or to dissolve their corruption. It is not an unusual situation in this respect, for corruption always tends to have long-term plans and short-term crises from exposure. The difficulties were unique in several respects however.
Firstly, there was so absolute a
power that it was past the normal devices of scheming orators and pestering
politicians. You COULD not trap Him HOWEVER apparently outrageous His dealings.
He always had an answer, and worst of all from a publicity point of view, He did
good, He helped, He healed, He delivered, He opened up pathways of reality, of
things like justice and mercy, which had all but been forgotten by many in the
realms of authorities (cf. Jesus Christ, Defaced ... |
Ch. 8), as they moulded and modified the word of God for their purposes, conjoining it with tradition, to make it of no effect.
Worse still, and secondly, Christ explicitly exposed this normal trade of evil, and shamed their shams with a pointed counter-probe, and an awesome articulation which also rang like tolling cathedral bells of a later day, with truth! (Mark 7).
The more they assailed Him, the less they assaulted Him. The Scarlet Pimpernel was a clown compared with Christ. Only blood could satisfy their lust for lordship, not under but over God. It was not explicit; but as with many traditionalist in their fanciful additives, they merely put their thoughts on a practical par with those of the Lord, and so tried to be co-pilot. The situation with salvation is infinitely far from that. Salvation is of the Lord, as Jonah learned to declare!
Thirdly, it was no only the power and the pointedness of His words and actions, it was the fact that their power was not only verbal. He had an inestimable advantage. He could MAKE THINGS HAPPEN, not merely in the realm of compassionate heart and kind word, of revealing expressions and exposure of sham. He could indeed work miracles. That was an advantage unspeakable. The true God has this power and when Someone comes in His name with His mission, as so famously exposed and expressed for more than a millenium by the Jewish prophets, then His very incomparable speech itself forming part of the prediction, what could mere man do against Him!
Only murder remained. It could be only because it was planned; and so in their extremities, they merely concluded the more authoritatively if it were possible, the confirmation of their victim as Messiah (I Corinthians 2:8).
Hatred can slow the wits, and roistering unrealism can be foisted onto the psyche of man by a sever combination of ambition and antipathy. Antipathy for God is the more obvious when His will appears, and His work.
You see this outraged reaction in John 11, where the High Priest quickly squashes any fear of Christ, which His enormous popularity incited, because of the latest and most masterful raising from the dead of Lazarus, a friend of His, after being four days in the tomb. All the world will go after Him! says one. What can stop Him ?
Not at all, says the canny High Priest. It is expedient that one man should die for the people.
Here was cunning itself. First, what he proposes is murder. What sin has someone done, who says and does as the Messiah prophetically, biblically, HAD TO DO! What sin is to be found in performing, with authenticity, the delivering work ascribed to the Messiah ? His very unanswerability was part of His work (cf. Isaiah 11), and His healing was an essential ingredient (Isaiah 29. 35). Even His rest was arrestingly exposed in Isaiah 11:10, and that was precisely what He was offering to the troubled souls of Jerusalem's citizens, and to any who would come to Him on His terms, which in turn, He made clear were those from His Father in heaven (John Matthew 11:28-30, John 12:48-50).
Skipping these hurdles, Caiaphas the High Priest proceeded to make murder seem like a sacrificial thing of nobility and enterprise: a man dying for the people. What a privilege! Was it not in a way to be compared, in the machinations of the crafty priestly mind, with what in a later day was the giving of plastic keys to paradise in terms of the false prophet, Muhammad, to his young followers, juveniles sent into battle in the Iran-Iraq war ?
The trouble was this, that the nobility of sacrifice occurs when it is willing and at the initiative or in the enterprise of the one sacrificing, provided only that the work is for a good purpose, in conformity with the love of the Creator, and a blessing to the people.
When like the USSR in its short heyday (1917-1990 or so, matching Hitler's - around 1933-1944, even shorter, but then the USSR had powerful 'friends', from a starkly different camp, one of the most shameful errors of the lovers of liberty), you TAKE the lives of your victims, what then ? Then it is mere verbal manipulation to make it sound like a noble sacrifice. Even if, as with Christ, the victim comes willingly, this does absolutely nothing to change either the case or the crime. Enforcement of sacrifice is so far from noble as to be murder. Deception on the way is devious murder.
The nobility in a willing victim is not shared by the notoriety of his murderers.
Thirdly, Christ not only has the power miraculously to heal, as we saw especially in Jesus Christ, Defaced, Unfazed ... Ch. 8, but to regulate the timing of the miracle, as if it were a scientific experiment. Thus when, as in Mark 2, there is a statement from the Messiah's mouth, that a man's sins are forgiven, and outrage at this alleged arrogation of divine prerogatives is expressed, Christ had what to any other would be a mountain to move, an immovable one of majesty, a virtual Everest. He had to heal on the moment, in a practical type of answer to the slur of the dissidents.
IF He were to make of the confrontation an opportunity to SHOW He was indeed authorised from heaven to forgive sins, He would have not only to heal the paralytic who had been let into the throng about Him, through the roof, but more would be required. He would have to heal in time to make the point while the issue was burning. Further, it would have to be complete.
Here surely was His come-uppance. So they might, in their unbelief, have thought.
Unfortunately for them, and in the manner of authenticity, He did what it took because He had what it takes; for He was the One foretold and the test was not only within His scope, but a part of the plan.
Thus, the more they challenged, the worse it was: it is always so when the challenge simply requires what the authentic POSSESSES as authentic, and it is provided because it is just.
In asking the man to rise up from his paralytic recline, Christ went further. He even instructed him to take up his bed, a daring device and a neat one; for limbs seeking a first dawning of power are not to be expected to start lifting. Far less are they to take it up and walk WITH IT, at once.
That was the point. As in the creation, so in the healing, the sky was not the limit. The celestial power of God was; and as to that, there IS no limit. That is the nature of the case. The face of God is illimitable, and the power of His mouth rests at no barrier.
Indeed, that is precisely why MOVING MOUNTAINS is part of the Messianic power, and He has given it to His people for His purposes, at His will as in Mark 11:23ff..
Of course, this does not mean that He makes of them a myriad of messiahs, for of messiahs there is but ONE, just as God is ONE; and the reality is just that God in being is One, but in persons is three (Isaiah 48:16), and it is God who sends God, or more precisely, God the Father who sends the Son (I John 4, John 3:16); and it is God as 'speaker' who sends the Eternal Word of God (John 1:1, 8:58).
Hence of messiahs, there is no proliferation. The stone rejected by the builders is the chief stone and so there is no other foundation but Jesus Christ (I Cor. 3:10-11), nor is there any other name given among men, under heaven, by which they may be saved (Acts 4:11-12). Since indeed God is the ONLY SAVIOUR (Isaiah 43:10-11), then the Messiah is not only God, but inhabits the innermost sanctum of deity, the ineluctable power and majesty of God being His (cf. Revelation 5).
Thus He may and must be worshipped (John 20:24ff.), as part of the very matrix of Messianic religion, or Christian faith as it is now more commonly termed. More than that also, there is a necessity to be saved impending on man, like a mountain: there is no other name, said Peter, by which man MUST be saved. It is compelling, impelling, ineradicable, unique.
Christ as Messiah therefore by His will could move any mountain, raise anyone dead for an hour or 4 days, answer any learned challenge from scholars, show compassion to thousands on repeated occasions, and miraculously feed them, and then resist and reject a call to become King (John 6), following His miracles. There was simply no desire to cash in on them for His own sake.
In fact, it seemed perfectly clear that His motivation was compassion, pity and mercy, truth and reality, and that being God already, His intent was to give (cf. Matthew 9:13, Hosea 6:6). The giving was not to stop at sacrifice, and He knew it (Matthew 16-17, John 1:29), having been marked for it; and since it was central to the Messianic role, it was a permanent and ineradicable feature of His work, one from which even friend Peter could not move Him (Matthew 16:22-23). In fact, the first exponent of papacy - one speaks ironically - was confronted in terms of Satan, for his trouble (cf. Jesus Christ, Defaced, Unfazed ... Ch. 9) in seeking to 'rescue' Him from any thought of dying...
Nevertheless, while the Spirit was given to Christ without measure, in immeasurable majesty (John 3:32-33), it is given in measure to His followers (cf. I Cor. 12-14), and moving mountains is not at all impossible; for with God, NOTHING shall be called impossible (Luke 1:37).
Thus with Christ, as in Mark 2's example, He could not only ACT to SHOW that He had power on earth to forgive sins, something incredibly blasphemous for anyone else, since if He were not God, it would be the Almighty who was offended against: for it is He who gives pardon for offence against Himself, and only God knows the heart of man (Jeremiah 17:9-10), as a divine prerogative. Thus none other can forgive.
Accordingly, when Christ forgave and was challenged, He did not claim mere human authority: for God knows who in his heart is already departing and is merely a tangent for truth, not a recipient (Deuteronomy 29:19ff.), and thus He alone can forgive.
In fact, Christ did not seek to qualify the challenge that ONLY GOD can forgive sins. Instead, He chose to act AS GOD to forgive sins. The proposition pronounced by His enemies, He met by acting in the power which coming from God as well as the pardon, was in His hands. He told the man to get up. Worse, He made it explicit. In this, He risked - were He a mere mortal - the entirety of the mission of His life, which would have become garbage and arrogance, presumption and fraud, on the spot.
If the healing were not instantly verified (for God speaks and it is done), then He was exposed. When however there is nothing to expose, then there is no ground for any fear. He therefore simply told them to consider which was the easier, to raise the paralysed or to pronounce pardon in God's name; and then raised up the paralytic instanter.
What could they do with Someone like that! It seemed unfair, for with their skills, they would expect a better result, as they corrupted the Temple and inclined their hearts to error, traditional as in later priests, who also presumed, without being God, to pardon sins.
It did not matter into what corner you could hope to compress the Lord, He would move the very corner itself and stride free as if in the middle of fields. Samson was left a mere beginner before power of this order; and in their rage, fury and frustration, that of the operators of the theological and temple systems, with their traditions and their corruption, their sale of office and their self-importance (exposed by Christ in Matthew 23's record), they increasingly resolved to act. There could be only one outage. He must die.
It was the High Priest Himself who so kindly made the sacrifice available for Christ; but instead of asking Him, He proceeded to entrapment and with Judas' aid (a trifle of a bribe of a field's worth of cash), He took the willing sacrifice to His murderous bosom. It was necessary only to have Him acknowledge who He was, and is, in order to use the theological apparatus to condemn Him. The question was simple: ARE YOU THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE BLESSED ? It did not seem to arrive in their minds, judgments or thoughts, , despise the incontrovertible evidence, that to deny it would be manifest absurdity, and the work of contemptible lying.
How often has it be so with contemporary victims! It does not matter what the truth is: the system requires action for its protection and dignity, and it is done. The junta said, Say you are the Messiah and you die. Truth did not appear even relevant.
In any other circumstances, the ludicrous nature of this imposition would have been readily enough evident. Do you ask someone if he is a professor on false pretences, one who came with fraudulent degrees, and then condemn him is he says that he is authentic, simply because you are sure that he is lying, subjectivistically, cynically, passionately, sure, without any concern for evidence ?
Do you not consider what he can do ? If he can make Einsteinian relativity appear as child's play, and put it in perspective in all more recent developments, show its errors and pronounce on its virtues, and in the process, go far further, and indeed be stopped by nothing mathematical, what then ? Do you then condemn him because it is in your mind to do so ? Do you, in such a case, then proceed to pronounce him a fraud ?
Such a procedure would be close to insanity, and certainly inanity. To expel him from the university would be an act of professional murder, and institute a loss for which the university would pay in loss of power, authority, prestige and credibility.
In these circumstances, however, the power as so often seeming to be absolute, the Romans trying to keep in good relationship with the Jews, who were a troublesome people for them as the Herods well knew, and the Sanhedrin the officially recognised trading body with Rome being a matter for some conciliation, what could stop them! So they acted.
The next mountain for Christ, one required movement, was to endure without sin, the mocking, spitting, clouting, crucifying, contempt, gainsaying, cursing, contempt and the agony. That past, the following part of the Messianic Mountains came into view. It was to bear sin and to endure the experience which it provided (as in Isaiah 59:1-2), of being separated from God (foretold in word, in Psalm 22:1 and shown in deed in Matthew 27:46). It would be rather like having your face removed while still living ... That sort of depiction occurs prophetically in Isaiah 52:12-15.
That done, there was need to continue to operate in the divine and irrepressible manner, for any repentant sinner. God is God and while He may and did elect to bear sin, He did NOT elect to become another, since this would be to delete the truth. HE IS who He is, and time is a mere invention (cf. Romans 8:37-38).
As a supreme test, this was just the call. A repentant sinner make himself known, right next to Him, on an accompanying cross. Would He act in the turmoils of anguish, spiritual before physical, and the physical agonies as well, with His own nature and love ? Would He show mercy to one of the race which was showing to their loving Creator precisely NO mercy ?
The thief being crucified, who repented in the presence of such authenticity had to be acknowledged. Mere agony was a mountain indeed, though not the greatest; even vidid, vilifying, arrogant contempt from His enemies as He slowly died, this was not to suppress His power to save. Christ met this challenge, and in so doing instituted a part of His major ministry. The thief, rebuking his fellow criminal, one of the two on crosses beside Christ, attested his own faith in the midst of the calamities, by asking Christ to remember him when He came into His kingdom (Luke 23:40-41).
In his rebuke to his fellow criminal, the dying thief indicated that they for their part were justly being put to death, but that as to Christ, He had done nothing wrong.
There was the key. Christ responded in this way.
The thief has requested he be remembered WHEN Christ would come into His kingdom ? That was the qualifying consideration. Would He THEN remember the criminal who acknowledging his own sin, attributed Messianic majesty and innocence to Christ, a sacrifice not for sin of His own ? Would He remember him at some such future time as would eventuate!
Christ did not allow the faintest delay to be in mind. Why, THIS DAY He responded to the time clause, this DAY you will be WITH ME, in Paradise.
There was first, free entry, second, immediate entry, thirdly, assured entry, and fourthly, entry in such style as to be in the very company of the King, the stone which the builders rejected, but which is made the Chief Corner Stone!
What majestic audacity, what uncowered courage, what uncomplaining functionality, what infinite veracity! If in the depths of His suffering, there is scope to save someone, then this is done. It is done with spiritual flair and beauty; it is done to become a key or prototype for many others finding God at the end of their lives; and it is done with a beautiful companionship for the least, from the highest. That, it is divine grace, but it is also Deity at work.
Christ was already removing the mountains of obstruction from enemies, turning even His ostensibly fatal death into triumphant salvation. That the resurrection was to come in no way delimited death to a fragmentary position. To die for sin is like dying in it: it is ghastly. Grace prevailed, majesty arrayed itself in light, and the darkness which fell on the land was from its intolerance for light (Mark 15:33, Matthew 26:51.
FIGS have their PLACE
FIG TREES DO VERY WELL FOR IT:
Christ's integrity was unassailable, but so was His power. Thus, while He could and did save the soul of a sinner repenting at the sight of His majesty in salvation, He did not allow mountains standing in the way of others to occlude His light, and delude the seekers. If in His own presence, the theological junta had not only not entered into His kingdom, being frauds, themselves, and in fact hindered those who were entering, this was not a situation to stay. His power even on the Cross showed that.
At the Reformation, you had a somewhat similar situation. In that day, the Romanist delusion which we have noted in recent chapters (cf. Jesus Christ, Defaced, Unfazed ... Ch. 9, and SMR pp. 1032ff., 946ff.), was a chief parallel. They made it explicit at Trent (a little later, but it bided in the interim) that if you held you had remission of sin by nothing but the virtue and merits of Christ, then you were damned!
Hence something had to be done. The Gospel was being subjected to duress, precisely as it had been by the Pharisees.
What did God do ? He used an imperfect priest called Martin Luther, an imperfect Archbishop called Cranmer, imperfect saints like Zwingli and Melanchthon, saved sinners like ex-priest John Knox, sacrificial offerings like John Huss, and thousands more, to bring in the Reformation, not excepting the morning star of the Reformation, John Wyclif, the spelling of whose name is one of the largest options for one man available!
God used thousands of saints, such as those shown in Foxe's Book of Martyrs, in many lands and in thousands of hours of tortures and loss, the children being frequently beggared through rapacity concerning the erstwhile wealth of their parents (Communists seem to have picked up the knack); and kingdoms changed, as the mountain moved. The way opened and free grace, free scripture, free salvation became the way in Christ by faith. It was as it had been.
There is always danger in any great movement that some at least of it will degenerate into new traditions as the pride and prejudice of man becomes self-important and puffed up once more; but for all the subsequent dangers, there was a mighty work of moving the mountain of obstruction in the Reformation*1. It is imperative to return then to the Bible itself, and using the insights of men, yet to be bound practically and actually ONLY by the word of God. Men tend to love the praise of the perfect, and the postulations of the wise, and hence ot be corrupted, even when, like Gideon, they first deliver. But not all are corrupted! Mountains are moved as the case requires, that God only should receive the glory.
To be sure, subsequent Puritanism refined the crucible's offerings, and various movements sought to avoid the nationalist dangers: but the idols were now off the dominant and indeed domineering position which they had occupied. There once again, along with sacrifice in sufferings attesting truth in love in the midst, God moved mountains. Then came new idols and follies and these are all part of the refining, the crucible of authenticity not this time for Christ, but for Christians. Their loyalties, their ties, their primary aims are all under test in such times, now as before: there is no difference.
In any day of test, it may seem the worst ever, unanswerable. Yet it always has an answer, even if suffering be the way; and when you come to think of it, taking up your cross DAILY and following Christ is not a bed of roses, nor a roseate dawn, nor a concoction of daffodils in Spring, not yet again an aid to wealth or prosperity in this world, is it!*2
When mountains are moved, you have the residue, the bunker left after the debunking, the exposure, and following the operation of the titanic power needed to remove a mountain. This then has to be shown up: this is one reason why Paul tells Timothy that if he instructs the brethren "in these things" he will be a good minister of Jesus Christ (I Timothy 4:6). What things ? why those things which concern what was then a coming phase, to manifest itself "in latter times", that is as the Age of the Gospel matured.
What was this phase ? It was that of "speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron." What were some of its signs ? They would be "forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth." There was, in other words, to be a persecution period coming on the part of those who like the traditionalistic Pharisees would make void the word of God by their added commandments; and in particular, some of these would make prohibitions on such primary affairs for the race, as marriage and eating various foods: abundantly fulfilled, and notoriously at that, by Romanism (cf. I Timothy 4:4).
To warn of such things, the arrival of what are called "deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons", Paul advises Timothy, is the work of a good minister of Christ. This debunks the bunkers, so that when mountains are moved as they always are when necessary for the free offer of divine grace in the Gospel to have its fruition, there is no doubt about the hole left. Keep out! Danger. On this also see Revelation 18:4 and SMR pp. 946ff..
Al living things have results. In the tree world, it is often seen in fruit; and especially so is it in the vine.
Here, what does not bear fruit is an anomaly. If you abide in the Lord and He in you, YOU MUST and YOU DO bear it. If there is a sport, a reversion to the wild stock, and if such a branch as that appears, of course you cut it off: it is non-genuine, useless, a specious intruder, a botanical Judas (John 15).
When Christ saw the fig tree, it was on the occasion of His Coming into Jerusalem on an ass's colt, to the ring of Messianic acclaim, in a prophetic setting signifying 'King' (Zechariah 9). Indeed this fig fixture came just after that lavishing of public praise, but before His purging of the Temple on the following day. As to that, it came, because of the commercial aridity and insipidity and the grasping greed which usurping the spiritual purpose, making a mere clutter as in the denunciations of Isaiah 1.
In the midst of all this epochal development, He had an opportunity. Symbolism is so significant. He came as to seek fruit from the fig tree, though it was not the season for it. Would it in any case have fruit ? Would this symbol for Israel, readily recognised, produce fruit! Would it be ready for the Messiah when He asked for it ? Figs are well found on fig trees. It is just to look for them there. It is even understanding to look for something unseasonable when the season has proved barren!
FIGMENTS AND FAITH DO NOT MIX
There was no fruit on the fig tree to which Christ went, on this evening occasion, seeking fruit. Having just been received into Jerusalem as Messiah, but looking for fruit on the fig, He found none. One might wonder why He should seek it when it was not the season for fruit ? but in symbolism the thing is quite clear. Israel had for many years failed to provide fruit, and thus to inspect a fig tree which had not (symbolically, as to the nation) yielded fruit for generations, not the fruit of favour which was required of a nation expected to show forth the praise of God (Isaiah 43:21), it was an act of symbolism. He would look and see what was to be found in this tree of such monumental lack, such botanical deficiency.
IF they had provided fruit in this or that year, well; but if year by year, they failed, then theirs was a mounting deficit, and like a banker seeking return, the Lord might inspect the tree at any time subsequent and see where the fruit was. It was by its very extraordinary nature, a lesson for thought. WHERE is the fruit of this tree which does not provide, even to the Maker of trees! Why is there this lapse!
The incredulous were among the defaulters as seen in the parable of Matthew 22:1-14.
The point is verbally put by the Lord as in Matthew 23:23-36. But first, let us see just how incredulous were many among the defaulters, and at how basic a level, so that it becomes as nauseous as was the failure in PC of New Zealand in 1966*3.
"The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, saying:
Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother.
Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her.
"Jesus answered and said to them,
You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching."
Thus when Christ spoke, as recorded in Matthew 23, concerning the multitude of presumption which had palavered itself into the system, dead and empty traditions without faith, it is scarcely surprising. It is well to hear once more not only what He said, but to discern the force of it, such as moves mountains. Alas one part of THIS mountain was Jerusalem itself, to be removed but not for ever, since the prophecies of the return of Israel are quite clear; but it was to be a loss for centuries as a major Jewish residence (cf. It Bubbles ... Ch. 11, SMR Appendix A, Secular Myths and Sacred Truth Ch. 3).
And as to the Temple, that misused symbol, it was demolished utterly, as foretold in Matthew 24:1ff. Mountains CAN be moved. It is better not to require it; but if they come, and the kingdom is in danger of being aborted, then the way the play comes in the end, means that they go. The servants of God do no violence, but history works its way, and the things disappear. Consider then the indictment of Matthew 23.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
"For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin,
and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.
"These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.
"Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.
"Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt.
"Serpents, brood of vipers! How
can you escape the condemnation of hell?
Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth,
from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah,
whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.
"Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation."
If you fail to do your work, how are you employed ? (cf. Luke 19:11ff.). In that case, your tenure is based on false premises. It is not that your work is the same as gaining employment, but for what ARE you employed ? To be sure fruit does not bring in the faith which saves, nor plant the tree (cf. Matthew 15:13); but it DOES express that faith. As James asseverates, Faith without works is dead. To place the works in the dynamics of salvation, or as the ground for acceptance is fallacious in the extreme (Romans 3:23-27, Ephesians 2:1-12); but to imagine that faith is a piece of poetry with no practical consequences is to attribute death to life.
God is real, and so is faith and so are fruits. It is madness to try to construct a life of faith from them, as if to judge, so that Christ warns of this in Matthew 7. Many rogues present a fruity face, and many who seem last have works past knowledge! Nevertheless, fruit is to be there, fraudulent doctrine is not so hard to detect, and love hopes all things.
If then an employe does not come to work, that is indicative over time ..
If moreover an employe should fail even to show up at all for an employer, this would scarcely be appreciated; but not even to recognise the employer when he calls, cries, requests, requires, and then to crucify him would be a matter of nil ambiguity. The hypocrisy would be such that the explosively purging speech of Christ in Matthew 23, is not only understandable, but a matter for just approbation!
What then have we found ? In the very same chapter 7 of Matthew, where judgmentalism is condemned, we learn that fruit is an expression of what lies within. Where false prophets are concerned, there is a clear index from fruit to root. They are readily detected as frauds. Where the saints are concerned however, as Matthew 7:1ff. shows, there is a limit to discernment. Many who are first will be last. This is not to say that the words of faith are not required, or that false teaching does not matter. It is only when subjectivistic judgmentalism enters in, that you have the unfortunate case of the fellow with a plank sticking out of his own eye, trying to tell you about a speck in your own, and to remove it for you.
In fact, such a man would practically decapitate you, as the plank whacked you on the head, as he turned his eye this way and that, to 'help' you. We see Christ cover this case in Matthew 7:1-6.
Thus NOT to judge on the one hand, and to know them by their fruits is a composite. Where the fruits are NOT a ploy or folly to allow presumption, by all means use them; but when they are, then they are excluded. The fruit which however is NOT excluded is that which is self-declarative, the case where the sin is not a judgmental thing, but an observable reality, such as denying the Lord, or practising adultery in the pulpit.
This last horror is not at all fanciful. If thus a declared and practising homosexual person, for example, being so known, can practice in the pulpit the pronouncements of the kingdom of heaven, as the Uniting Church has made clear can be permitted*4, what is the parallel ? How then does this differ from a pastor who is known, and who proclaims himself to be fornicating with one of the choir girls, and perhaps even names her, and has her living at his address to boot!
In this, there is no difference. The one as the other biblically requires no lapse in judgment (I Corinthians 5:9ff., 6:9ff.). It is forbidden fruit; and as such, it is conspicuously clear, excluded and incapable of acceptance by the Lord's people. Repentance is most acceptable; but continuation is not.
LESSONS FROM FIGS
From the figs, now we can learn some valuable lessons. Christ attested His will with word and symbol, and then from heaven as the resurrected Redeemer now ascended, continuing as the Word of God, He executing the will divine. What was wrought ?
The cursed fig tree, symbol of the Levitical curse on an utterly apostate Israel, became prelude to a cursed Jerusalem, in one generation reduced to ruins, the Temple a riot of grief, as it was stricken, as Christ had been. This was independently predicted as in Matthew 24; but it was in due time, done.
The incident of the fig tree, in the time of the triumph at Palm Sunday, by way of exhibiting the long term trend of things, both before and after this popular reception, had spoken. Fruitless, cursed, it withered. So did Israel for long centuries.
It had got in the way of the kingdom of God, not merely FAILING to implement its ways, but CRUCIFYING the King! It had broken the covenant and instead of growing, like a youth (spiritual version) into a man, had become retrograde and diminished, growing down. Then it was dismantled. God used JEWS, however, and thousands of them, to build anew the outposts of the kingdom of heaven (Isaiah 66:19-20*5A), the body of Christ, the Church of God. Apostle and martyr, teacher and prophet, they went out into the world with the message which soon equipped churches with thousands of members.
Gentiles being won, joined in, and soon there was a NEW EDIFICE, as Peter put it (I Peter 2), not made of actual stones, as the Temple had been, but constructed of people, to make up a cathedral in which the joint voices of the 'stones' would praise God.
Thus what had become an impediment, a fruitless residue, and in fact something PURPORTING to be a tree of God but far from Him (Isaiah 29:13 was on the way to this anomaly), was thus no more able to block the purposes of God in constructive charity and Gospel grace, than a mountain can block atomic bombs; indeed less, if these have limits, but God has none.
We see here a removal of a mountain; for it was in those terms, not only NOT tending to limit transit and expansion of the truth, but tending to block it altogether. Hence it had to go. It did so. The routes outward were thus re-established; and the wonder, racially, is this: that although the NATION of Jews failed, and was removed, many of the PEOPLE of the Jewish race were those very ones who pursued the now unblocked highway of holiness, and sent forth the truth as the nation now sends forth flowers, being one of the chief sellers of the same, a bounty predicted also (Isaiah 35).
There is another sort of flowering to come*5B, and needed (Romans 11:25ff.); and this is part of the justice of God, that He did not swear in vain to Abraham, as in Genesis 17; just as the expansion through Israel of the Gospel, through many of its people, is also part of His multiply loaded blessing, from Genesis 12.
The First PRINCIPLE
A principle therefore, in terms of Mark 11:23 is to be found: that is the MOVING OF MOUNTAINS type of prayer in the midst of a spiritual block or blockade, the prayer of faith. Christ had made the fig tree an illustration of the power of God in answer to such prayer. Thus, if something or someone fails absolutely to ally itself, where it should, in the kingdom of heaven, then it may be exposed as useless and left to die (spiritually, dynamically, to the point in view). While the affair is spiritual, it may end up in the realm of the physical. It WITHERS, and dies.
If it continues to exist as a 'tree', then it has lost its dynamic; and as fruit is missing, so is its verisimilitude. It is no longer free to deceive, to block. It is countervailed. Viewed now not as branches, but a mount: it is as a mountain, in that image, moved, moved right away. It is as if it were in the sea.
How States have withered as they failed to continue in the godly way, and how persons, and how institutions, seemingly irreplaceable have failed, first in fact and then often in form, or left a dribbling in the beard type of residue.
Once great, now they are replaced. In the current disorder and failing doctrine in this Anti-doctrinal Age of Antipathy to Truth, where human invention is the classic contention, and what God has to say is to be on the tongue of any patter-maker, so that Jeremiah 23:18-20 is fulfilled "perfectly" in these "latter days", there are increasing dumps and thumps of mountains of inveterate opposition to Christ, in the seas, so that the waters are rising in tumultuous confusion in more senses than one! Even the other and physical sense, that too fits the predictions of the Lord (Luke 21:25). The race is surrounded with truth, but in love with "the lie" (cf. II Thess. 2:4-10).
The time of calamities all but unthinkable, mentioned by Christ as a part of the pathway to the end, is here (cf. Matthew 24:12, 24:21-22 with 21:24). It is as presented in Dizzy Dashes ... Ch. 6, or History, Review and Overview Ch. 5, in News 121, 122, Downfall from Defamation Ch. 2, Journey to God Ch. 2, Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 8, Acme ... Ch. 9, Secular Myths ... Ch. 3, Ch. 7; and with these the assemblage of tell-tale events that mark the last lap of the race (Answers to Questions Ch. 5).
The removal of these obstructions from their fell work is therefore sure. It may take daring confrontation, perilous provision of Gospel information, defence of the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1-3 cf. ); but the globe trotting task of the Gospel will not fail. Friends became traitors, co-workers decline, but the life of the Lord does not decline, and the power of His word is the same as the foretold perfection of truth-mangling false prophecy, false churches and falling religious bodies aggregates itself into forsaken bodies of this or that type of spurious union. States in furious accord with the movement, amplify it; but it is as sure as was the crucifixion, and its end as determinate as the resurrection and the proclamation of precisely that Gospel foretold in detail, as to its basis and character, by Isaiah (7, 9, 32, 49-55 for example).
With Christ, there had to be not only the removal of the blockade on the biblical beliefs and the access route to God (cf. Luke 11:52), but the final payment for its provision by securing the redemption while the band of unbelief played its wicked Jest Jubilee March by the Cross. He paid it handsomely, His perfections precisely as forecast in Ezekiel 34 and Hosea 13:14, the very rendering of deity, and the very necessity for man.
it cost the crucifixion to replace dead formalisms, lost in traditional misinterpretations and consolidations and to institute the profound simplicities of salvation once more before the eyes of all in the personal form of the One who was Saviour in Himself! Although only He can pay redemption claim, others pay with their lives for its proclamation and impartation.
It is cost-effective, even that, but the cost is high. Beautiful in scope, however, it is a privilege to pay what one can (cf. Matthew 20:28), in service to the Saviour, exercise of faith for His work to proceed, and personal involvement where the skies rain acid rain of contempt from this world.
That is always the underlying cost. His people more and more suffer as in Revelation 12:11, with the word of their testimony and the blood of the Lamb out front, before the glory denoted in Rev. 11:15 is consummated, when "the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever."
On the way, one by one, the obstructive preventions of the Gospel are removed, as now this, now that, now another arises, and now it is moved out of the way, exposed, shunted, obliterated, as the case may be. There is nothing that stands before the Gospel, and if a nation, as with Israel, and they are many such, shuts it eyes to the opening, then indeed it may suffer from a blindness and a bondage; but the individuals remain free and they speak, not holding the tongue but keeping the faith. Now the internet is one more way of overcoming mountains; but the best way of all is the love and the truth of Christ. This penetrates like light into the darkest of places by whatever means.
House churches in China are another example, and not in China only, for even in Australia, the need is becoming more and more apparent. It is where truth is sought that the light comes; it is where prayer is made that the pronouncements appear; it is where the grace of God is entreated, that results accrue. If there is to be filthiness, then so be it; but the light invites (Revelation 22:11).
The world and the devil alike, continually seek to divert, contain or corrupt the truth of Christ, which nevertheless like an irresistible stream covers the earth, nation by nation having its opportunity (Acts 17:28ff.), and the dynamic never ceases until the end comes. Revelation 12 gives clearly the sense of it, both in the insensate fury of the devil, mad with rage and frustration and sure of judgment, but in his own way so popular with so many, seeking perhaps for a little bit of luck and the impossible, if by any means the certainties could somehow be seduced!
So he seeks. But the aim of the ambition meets fiasco, and for the subversive longing, the end is not so - and just as he spews out after the people of the Lord his version of the flood, to engulf them, so does the earth swallow it up. It is living waters which remain, not the foul-breathed spewings of the devil. This is precisely the picture in Revelation 12:9ff. and 22:17.
The removal of mountains is NOT the same thing as the obliteration of human freedom; it is rather the granting of access to actuality, redress for sin in redemption, peace for pollution cleansed, and this to the diseased, the spiritually deceased, the destroyed, the vagrant, the proud unhumbled, the titanic in their outrageous aspirations, the depressed in their pathological formulations, the 'normal' in their invidious and insidious presumptions: to one and to all.
The block removed, the blessing can be received.
As to mountains, they are made for moving; except the immovable mount, the everlasting strength, that mountain of God's righteousness and truth, amid the everlasting mountains of reality before ever any physical mount was made, beyond the highest and eternal past the chronological sagas of this earth (Psalm 125:1-2, 91:1-3, 119:142).
The Second PRINCIPLE
Sometimes however some might be tempted to leave the obstructive mountains of man alone.
Forget their snake pits and lava, and earthquakes! they say with undisguised relief. They would prefer to gnore the spirited sallies against the word and ways of the Lord, against the grace and the goodness of God (cf. News 100, Dizzy Dashes ... Ch. 6).
What then of this ? In Jeremiah 48:10, we find these words: "Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord deceitfully." The sense is this: doing the appointed work of the Lord negligently, without conscientious attention to the thrust and point of it, this seeks for cursing. Thus, on the contrary, one should testify to Him clearly, constantly; and should answer those who ask for a reason for the faith, demolishing the follies assailing and acting as if to subvert the very word of God (II Cor. 10:5), and showing their basic irrationality; and if there is need for others in the Church team to act, now here, now there: then this too is right, as gifts vary. Yet the WORK should be done.
Hence failure to be thorough and conscientious, so unhappily attested in the national case of Israel for a long time before Christ came to visit her in Person, it has a lamentable result. The lack of faith which does not DO the work properly, is the lack of life which at last CANNOT, because it is dead, having been merely a meretricious form.
No more is the nether reality a mountain to be moved. Slinging in the subterranean, with light, denizens of the dark can bear their badges in shame.
One may relish instead of such submissive surrenders, the challenges given for centuries before the coming of Christ, in such passages as Isaiah 1, and in particular Isaiah 1:16-17, and consider the quest and thrust of Zephaniah 3:1-7, Zechariah 7:9-10 and the lashings in Ezekiel 22:6ff., with the exposure of Jeremiah 5:30-31, and 23. Alas, the compassions of the Lord being aborted in the cases of those so many, appointed to show them, and His words traduced, all this led as it progressed to the bottom of the pit, where darkness loved, is darkness gained. For the Jew it came; for the Gentile it comes. Treachery is not for any one race; and its results do not vary (cf. Isaiah 24:16).
Thus those who fail to move mountains, alone, or in concert, active in spirit and seeking in heart, is it well for them ? Alas for those of slack intent! They become not only inert, or inept; in many cases, they show that lack of faith which replaces faintness with prayer, and so they enter the vortices of lifelessness and become more and more like flotsam and jetsam; and it can be very expensive flotsam and jetsam, as Jerusalem found out.
The Third PRINCIPLE
From the fig tree episode we learn a third principle. Christians should be ready at any time to be of service to the Lord, just as He sought in vain for fruit unseasonably from the fig tree, which after all had not been abundant in season!
Be instant in season and out of season: that is, be well applied and concerned, concerted and active at ANY time when the case calls for the work of the Lord. Does even a medical doctor, concerned for the body, fail to act when a midnight case comes! See on this II Timothy 4:1-5. If the pastor is in view, so also the people, for it is one body, and each helps the other as enabled.
"I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:
"Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.
"Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine,
but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears,
they will heap up for themselves teachers;
and they will turn their ears away from the truth,
and be turned aside to fables.
"But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions,
do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry."
Notice in this, that it is NOT an excuse (but who needs excuse, who loves ... ?), that the times spoken of by Paul are unstable, unspiritual, ungodly and largely ungoverned, in goodness so superbly deficient almost like a cartoon. It is however in VIEW of such times that Paul enjoins Timothy all the MORE to act! The boy in the Dutch dyke case did not say that the hole made action impossible for the sea would surge; but that the hole made action necessary!
The Fourth PRINCIPLE
The prediction which Christ made, symbolically with the fig tree, in terms of a command as in Mark 11:14, with results as in 11:20ff., and actually in A.D. 70 when Jerusalem suffered in substance, illustrates a point. It is this. The use of symbols can be very apt, and like demonstration lessons they may be remembered with great force and make a great and enduring moral impact over even generations to come! Where in due course, the action avails, then the symbol nails the thing to the memory.
The Lord's Supper*5 is one such symbolism, and is UNTIL HE COME (as in I Cor. 11). It constantly reminds of this coming fact and Prince. HOW does it remind ? Is it not primarily a matter of death, this Lord's Supper ? It is; but secondarily, and consummatively it is a matter of a death showered in glory BECAUSE not only of the motivation, of the dynamic, of the purity, of the project's purpose in redeeming sinners, not alone in the endurance shown and the glory of heart involved on the part of the Lord. It is so because the One who did these things, being authentic, ROSE again, and having risen, will rule the Redeemed and judge the swamps (Ezekiel 47)! It is all bound up together, and thus Paul's simple word, about remembering Him 'until He comes', is powerful. The symbol speaks not only implicitly, but here is applied explicitly.
Similarly baptism (cf. News 51 *1, What is the Chaff to the Wheat Ch. 1) is a symbol, NOT of the righteousness of the one baptised, but of the need for washing, either prospective in infants, or retrospective and also in the whole life cover, for adults. It does not DO anything in terms of the washing, as Peter makes so clear in I Peter 3:21, for the baptism which saves, declares the apostle, is the one which is that of a clear conscience towards God in terms of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As to the washing, the covenant cleansing, the coherent command of Christ and the power of His presence: it SIGNIFIES it. It is a stamp in watery form, it is a drop from heavenly places, and it shows that here is the ONLY WAY home, the ONLY cleansing, the ONLY access to God.
What is ? Not the baptism: this is what it shows! It is of this that it speaks. Fig trees do not destroy Jerusalem.
What then does it show ? It shows the cleansing power of the blood of Christ (which having been ONCE shed can no longer be actual, but only symbolic), the governing power of the risen Lord and the covenantal necessity under His Lordship as risen; and that this is the route to reality.
The Fifth PRINCIPLE
The use of symbol in this case, by Christ, was accompanied by a bold, decisive, direct and fearless action in the Temple. As this was literally His Father's house, that is, the symbolic house appointed to man in which to worship, therefore He could indeed cleanse its interior and purge its ways. This He did in a way which occasioned fury in the priesthood, and helped produce the crucifixion. It was so sweeping, so sincere, so spiritual and so right. It was therefore wholly intolerable to sin and to those whom it ruled. What sin does, is to make righteousness intolerable.
If this had not been done, and all had been left in MERE symbol, then the poetical fancifulness of man might have had a heyday, and less been accomplished. Words of beauty, things of symbol, require actions of duty and things of truth as well.
The Sixth PRINCIPLE
Further, even truth sometimes is stayed in action, for men abandon it, leaving it under duress (as in the parable of Mark 4:5-6). Christ however STAYED until physically removed; and His action was an amplifier to His symbol, just as His action on the occasion of the Palm Sunday episode itself, echoed down the ages. It all cohered: and coherence of spirit and word, word and deed, truth and sincerity is one of the indices of truth, one of the operating felicities on the soul and spirit of man.
The Seventh PRINCIPLE
The question is here answered. Which one ? It is this. Was Judaism an actual obstruction to Christianity, and did it need to repent or to realise that set in its ways, additive to the word of God, traditional to the deficit of truth, it was in the way of the kingdom of heaven, rather than any more being the way to it (Mark 7:7ff.). As bogus it was bad; but as blight by blinding, it was worse. This is exactly what Christ indicated as we read in Luke 11:52 and Matthew 23, 15:14.
The formal and official religion had become not only corroded and corruptive by false practice and tradition, but bound to blindness. Its exponents did not even realise who the Boss was when He arrived on the scene; who the Lord they 'worshipped' was when He actually arrived in Person. Worse than that, they sought by the only workable means, to rid themselves of Him, just as in the parable of Mark 12: that is by death. Killing the boss has an effect on the salary.
No more can Judaism provide the meat of life. It pointed to Christ and then disowned Him; so He has disowned it, precisely as in Zechariah 11:10-15, and in Isaiah 65:13-15. It is sad, even grievous, but then killing the Boss is unhappy as an affair, and it needs repentance as is to be, as shown in Romans 11:25, in its season, and in Zechariah 12:10. Glad indeed is the news, for if the falling away, Paul declares, brings gifts of grace to the Gentiles, as the falsity is cut out, what will it be but as life from the dead when in large measure Israel itself returns to faith, and realises the significance of the death of the Lord, repenting and being washed in the fountain of blood. The phrase is symbolic; the reality is not. It is as in destruction, so in construction: phrases symbolise, action attests.
Thus even the greatest and most legitimate of institutions can be so corrupted that they need replacement. There is however no replacement for the Gospel, which not BEING an institution, cannot be changed. Moreover, the Church will have no replacement, for it is the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 2, 4). What IS replaced is the array of glittering substitutes for it, some of which started as true churches, but followed this world, the flesh, the devil, the propositions of worldly unwisdom and the antithetical call of the wilderness! You see the principle to that in some of the ecclesiastical cases cited in Revelation 3-4.
This therefore calls to all to watch their ways, for if the Jew has illustrated the principle, the Gentile need not be high-minded (Romans 11); for he has seen a principle in operation, and obtuse indeed is he, is she who ignores it with such a prelude provided. Of course, having made the unalterable and eternal Gospel to shine in its consummation in Calvary and at the tomb, where the evacuation of death was the triumph of life, and the body was shown to be well in the power of the Maker of it, God leaves only one way for the spirit of man. Yet in the promises to Abraham, He provides for precisely what He said, even to the jot and tittle. He shows His faithfulness in little and much; and in all is to be relied upon. As Paul exults in Romans 11:30-38, the divine plan is profound, multi-faceted and marvellous. What would you expect!
This, then, is another phase, and one which exudes the principle of divine faithfulness, as an olive does oil. Israel is already back with its victories as prescribed, and its problems until it returns to the Lord as equally prescribed (cf. Zechariah 12, Romans 11, SMR Chs. 8-9, Appendix 8, Galloping Events Ch. 4, Calibrating Myths ... Ch. 5, Gracious Goodness Epilogue).
With this fact is the point that Judaism as the would-be testimony of the God of the Old Testament was not only repudiated (not because of error in the Old Testament but because of such departure from it): it became inimical to the Gospel it had through the prophets proclaimed! Indeed, the predicted and verified Messiah was murdered: foretold to be sure, but not for that reason an action exonerated!
Its rejection was made yet more manifest. Thus its TEMPLE was DESTROYED, the symbolic preliminaries were not only consummated, fulfilled and complete; but the way to hang on to them, like an Autumn leaf long after its time for Fall had come, it was not there. The Temple itself was gone. Its need to feed in symbol replaced by the bread of life in Christ (John 6:50ff.), its day was done.
This in several ways showed the EFFECTIVENESS of the fig tree signal, which of course paralleled the direct prediction in Matthew 24:1ff.. The power of God, whether through symbol or direct word, had the effect as usual: what it said, happened (cf. Jeremiah 3:12-16). The figs spoke even for those who did not care a fig for faithfulness.
Since the purging was merely resented, when Christ performed it on Palm Sunday; and since the warning was not heeded, even when Christ told the 'daughters of Jerusalem' not to weep for Him but for themselves (Luke 23:28ff.), and since Christ was not perceived, even in the day of His visitation (Matthew 23:37ff., Luke 19:42ff.): then there were as sure results as if you stepped off a boat in mid-ocean with a dinner suit and shoes on, and expected to go to bed. The only point ? WHICH sort of bed!
In things positive, in things negative, in things of pardon, of purpose blessed, of judgment, of the onset of the repudiation syndrome: in one and in all, He said it, it happened. Symbol was fulfilled; words were performed. That is the way with God: the ultimate in faithfulness, reliability and delicacy. HOW MANY TIMES did Christ exhort, warn, appeal, attest His divine status and fulfil the scriptural identikit for the Messiah! Failure rate: Zero. How many times did the nation respond in its authority and depth ? Zero. Some came as individuals, and these multiplied in time; yet the nation was obdurate.
Thus the mountain which Christ was walking in, from which He departed, which was shrouding the truth with a cloak, and darkening counsel with ignorance: that of Judaism, it was in fact removed. Alas into what a sea of peoples a mass of this people were cast! as foretold in Leviticus 26:33.
Mountains do move, when faith calls in the word of God, for the effectual promises of God, using the premisses of God, and acknowledging His power and His pity, His will and His ways.
In His name, it is to be done: but the scale, the sheer scale of operations, how it soars into the limitless majesty of God, from which it first of all comes! Indeed, in Mark 11:24, we have the mountain-moving principle extended into the whole domain of faith and felicity in relationship to the Lord of glory, and needed action in His name.
The Eighth PRINCIPLE
We find in Christ's immediately following words in Mark 11:25, that there is no case for mere personal irritation, hurt pride or offence in this power to remove mountains, granted as in Mark 11:23. If you do not forgive, you are out of sorts with the Power and the Majesty of God. This mountain moving facility is not a substitute for forgiveness, but a provision for functionality in the Gospel!
Indeed, if you do not forgive, how are you to be forgiven, for pardon is the coin of commerce in the kingdom of heaven, and it is part of the nature of the felicity of function within it (Mark 11:26).
The Ninth PRINCIPLE
Next, we find that there is no limit as to power and the amazing character of what is required when a mountain has to be spiritually removed. It is done even when a vast congregation of power and corruption rules and seems inveterate in its overthrow of any work for the Lord. Look however at what happened. Not only did the Roman Emperor Constantine himself come to profess Christianity, a welcome enough change after all the martyrdoms of Christians for centuries before, but the ways of Christ had free and even enabled access to the imperial spread of that Empire.
The Tenth PRINCIPLE
The power is great; but so may be the cost. The devil being maddened with rage, is not for that reason devoid of intellect. Vast is the cost to the people of the Lord; and vast is the impact through the Spirit of God and the word, of the testimony of life and mouth.
We must however with this realise that while profoundly thankful to the Lord for the wonderful and a matter for profound gratitude over the ages, we must acknowledge a vastly important fact: it is not the suffering which moves the mountain, but FAITH. This means that this link, covenantal and secure, with God, it is this which like tug of the dog to its master's sleeve, awakens the power which being of God Himself, cannot fail.
The face of God, the mouth of God, the word of God: it is illimitable in power, and secures what is to be. Yet it is decisive and definitive, and has foretold what is to be with relish and ardour (cf. Amos 3:7, I Corinthians 15).
See SMR: 109-111, 392, 685, 702, 923-924, 952, 1088G-H. See also Ancient Words ... Ch. 14.
*2 Consult Luke 14:27ff., Matthew 16:24ff., Galatians 2:20 with I Corinthians 4 and II Corinthians 4.
See on such contrary movements as require more mountain movement, more recent or even contemporary tests confronting the Christian, in such sites as:
SMR pp. 683ff., 842ff., 857ff., OVERFLIGHT... 1 (and the UN), NEWS 152 (truth does not invade, but it still prevails - discussion in detail including the UN approach), Mystery of Iniquity, and News 121, 122.
On this New Zealand phenomenon, see:
Dizzy Dashes, Heady Clashes and the Brilliant Harmony of Inevitable Truth Ch. 6,
The Frantic Millenium ... Ch. 4;
Jesus Christ, Defaced, Unfazed ... Ch. 1.
See Bright Light ... Ch. 6.
See Dig Deeper, Higher Soar ... Ch. 5, with With Heart ... Ch. 6.
See It Bubbles ... Ch. 10, Ch. 11, The Biblical Workman Ch. 1, *3, Ch. 3, *1.
*5 See: Spiritual Refreshings 14