The passage of Mark 11.20-26 is quite a puzzle. I have covered it in my new book already, but I wish to use it as a meditation for Palm Sunday. Shortly after Jesus entered into Jerusalem, he saw a fig tree and condemned it even though it was not the season for figs (11.13). The poor fig tree! This is one of those puzzling acts Jesus did that have no sure answers. Thereafter, Jesus cleansed the temple (11.15-18). Finally, the next day, the disciples saw the dead tree and was astonished.
I wish to focus our attention this Palm Sunday on 11.22-24. Jesus taught that they had to have faith in God (or “keeping on believing” or “keep on being faithful to God”). The verse 11.23 is very strange in that Jesus used a hyperbole about a mountain, not just any mountain, but THIS mountain. Jesus evidently was talking about the temple mount. Jesus used the teaching not as a teaching about prayer but about the fig tree and the temple because the context was to answer Peter’s query about the dead cursed tree.
Jesus’ teaching was a prophetic pronouncement about the temple having lost its place, evident in his previous clearance of it. Since the temple has lost its place as a house of prayer (11.17) and became a den of brigands, Jesus would build a faith community that prayed. Yet, he did not build it immediately. Why did the disciples need to remain faithful or have faith?
The reason Jesus taught about faith was not just about asking for anything including something outrageous as throwing a temple mount into the sea. Jesus’ teaching about asking for anything only came after the building of meaningful relationships. Evidently, the temple might have lost its relational function as well when the money and doves became means of financial transaction rather than relational building.
Thus the story here tells us that the faith community Jesus created would have enough faith to challenge its own in the way Jesus did, by saying that the mountain ought to be thrown into the sea. On the more positive side though, it values relationships rather than transaction. Such a community would not sit back comfortably and relax because after saying such pronouncement, Jesus was crucified. After Palm Sunday, crucifixion happens. I wonder if the church community today characterizes Jesus’ spirit enough to warrant crucifixion. This too deserves consideration.