After cursing the fig tree and cleansing the temple (Mark 11:12-19), Jesus and the disciples “went out of the city” (v. 19). On their way back the following morning, the disciples saw the fig tree Jesus cursed the day before, and it had withered away to its roots. They marveled at this, “[a]nd Peter remembered and said to him, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered’” (Mark 11:21).
Jesus’s response: “Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:23-24).
Wait—what? Did Jesus just tell the disciples that a fig tree will die if they say the words? that a mountain will jump into the sea if they tell it to? He did. And that’s only just scratching the surface of what Jesus was really saying.
When Jesus instructed them that they could tell a mountain to throw itself into the sea, he wasn’t necessarily telling them to start barking orders at mountains. He was using hyperbole to tell them (and us) how incredibly weak we are and how incredibly powerful he is. He wants us to declare with the Apostle Paul, “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:10). When we’re at our weakest, God is at his strongest. Jesus wants us to ask bold prayers of him—prayers to do extraordinary things. Things like calling our children out of the darkness of sin into Christ’s marvelous light. Opening the ears of that family member who can’t seem to hear the gospel message you’ve been telling them for years. Getting that neighbor to drop his guard when you share your faith with him.
Jesus wants us—his blood-bought, sanctified people—to bring our sorry selves to him in prayer, believing he’s able to do what we’re asking him to do…or “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). Because of God’s great love for us, we simply can’t be bashful or shy when we come to him in prayer. God desires for us to ask great, Kingdom-advancing things of him. When we pray this way, he looks infinitely glorious as he comes to our aid.
Jesus told the disciples their faithful prayers could move mountains. Figuratively, these “mountains” can be thought of as hindrances. Hindrances to what exactly? Our unfettered worship of the triune God.
As we press deeper into Holy Week, drawing ever-closer to the cross, what hindrances are you letting stand in the way of your worship of Christ, your true joy? Before you move on with your day, linger here for a moment. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you your heart. He already knows your sin, and loves you too much to let you remain satisfied in it. Whatever he shows you, don’t leave until it’s dealt with. Don’t forget why the Savior came to Jerusalem in the first place: to victoriously conquer every obstacle standing between you and the Father’s love and grace.