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Tony's Reflection 86
Who is the most powerful man in the world?
Maybe it’s Joe Biden. He can press the button on over 5000 weapons of mass destruction and in a split second send everything living on this earth into the abyss. Perhaps you think of someone like Tom Stoltman, the world’s strongest man in 2021. He can toss a 15 kg (33lb) keg almost 25 feet.
Joe Biden, though, can’t launch nuclear missiles just by talking to them. People, processes and equipment are all involved. Neither can Tom Stoltman propel a keg into the area just by speaking to it.
Power to make things happen just by word, with nothing and no one else involved at all, is unheard of. Almost… that’s what we see Jesus has done in this week’s episode from
. What’s even more surprising is he wants to get us doing that, too. Really?!
The city of Jerusalem was barely waking up, when Jesus and the 12 were back on the road again into town. The warmth of the morning sun was driving away the last night’s chill, as it reached through the canopy of foliage over their path into Jerusalem.
All was green, lush and fresh, to greet the new day and the excited travellers. Apart from one tree. Its neighbours were all flourishing, rich and leafy, but this one stood there, leafless and brown. Its naked branches gaunt and dark, defying the life-giving sunlight with their air of death. The trunk was dead and twisted, contorted as if someone had rung every last drop of life-giving sap out of it. Its roots disappeared into the earth, black and crisp, no longer brown and moist, totally inert and unable to pull life from the surrounding soil.
Its stark deadness stood in sharp contrast against the fresh blue morning sky and even the birds, greeting the new day with their dawn chorus, left that tree in its desolate loneliness.
Peter’s eyes were drawn to the mournful sight. Then came the jaw-dropping realisation … yesterday this very tree had been full of life and leaf. This was the tree where Jesus had gone looking for fruit, invited by its pompous display to a fruity feast of figs, only to find nothing.
“May no one ever eat fruit from you again,” Jesus had said. That was yesterday, when that same tree had been luxuriant. Now, just death and barrenness.
Peter is so shocked he can barely get the words out. “Teacher, look at what’s happened to that tree…” The others simply stand speechless, their thoughts springing from surprise to horror and back again. Sudden and unexpected destruction… just by Jesus speaking?!
Jesus reads their faces and sees into their spirits, as only he can. He knows this is a teaching moment, when their hearts and minds are wide open for him to plant a seed of truth. As he looks deep inside them, he gives them the secret of this breathtaking power. He glows with pride in his heavenly Father, who has seen fit to share such devastating strength, normally His alone, with mere human beings.
“That’s what happens when you have faith,” says Jesus. The warmth in his voice and the obvious affection for both the Twelve and for Father God invites them to enter this world of trust in God.
Jesus’ gaze turns toward Jerusalem, to the temple rooted solidly on its holy mountain, reigning gloriously over the city below. His tenderness for the Twelve swirls away as quickly as an early morning mist, giving way to a mix of both steely determination and sadness, as he took in the holy sanctuary, stood on its rock - solid, immovable, proud.
He pointed upward into the city, staring at the temple and the mountain it stood on.
“I tell you the truth,” he said… the disciples know by now this little phrase heralds something hugely significant for them and they are hanging on every word.
“If you tell this mountain…” they are all following his gaze, eyes fixed firmly on the mountain the temple is set on, “… to throw itself into the sea and there is no doubt in your heart, then God will do it for you.”
The temple was all that was rocksolid about Jewish faith and national pride. It was the House of Commons, St Paul’s Cathedral and Big Ben rolled into one.
Peter thinks back to that fig tree and its display of fruitiness, when in reality it was fruitless. He gazes at its black deadness. His next thought is chilling. Almost unthinkable. The temple, yesterday, had been just like that fig tree. Full of show and splendour, but under the shell no spiritual substance at all. Surely it wouldn’t go the same way as the fig tree, would it?
Jesus’ death sentence on the temple is yet to come. For now, there are 12 hungry hearts open before him eager to learn the secret of prayer so powerful it can move a mountain.
“Whatever you ask when you pray, believe you have received it and it will be yours…”. So that’s it? All you have to do is trust and believe. Unwaveringly. Not even a shadow of doubt. There was much more for them to learn about prayer, through heartbreak and humility. Now, though, is the time for their perspectives to be blasted wide open, through this stunning headline.
There is more…
“When you stand praying, forgive anyone who has wronged you, so God can forgive you.” Forgiveness, received and given, opens the line of communication with God along which this stunning power can flow.
Forgiveness. Unwavering belief. The secrets to unlocking mountain-moving prayer - then, as now.