Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).
1. What was one reason Jesus cursed the fig tree? Note Matthew 21:20-22 (printed below)
When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. How did the fig tree wither so quickly? they asked. (21) Jesus replied, I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, Go, throw yourself into the sea, and it will be done. (22) If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. (Matthew 21:20-22)
One reason Jesus cursed the fig tree was in order to attract the disciples’ attention. Peter and the other disciples (see Matthew 21:20) were amazed when they saw the sudden withering away of a tree that just the day before stood in full foliage. Having captured the disciples’ attention, Jesus will now go on to teach them about the power of believing prayer (cp. Matthew 21:21-22). Note: a second reason for the cursing of the fig tree will be discussed in the next lesson.
2. What does Jesus say in Mark 11:23 (printed below?) Does He expect us to take His words literally? What is He teaching?
I tell you the truth, Whoever shall say to this mountain, May you be picked up and thrown into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that what he says will happen; it will be done for him. (Mark 11:23)
As on other occasions (cp. Mark 9:43-47), so here, too, Jesus is using striking language in order to gain our attention and emphasize His point. In the present instance Jesus wants to impress upon us the power and effectiveness of believing prayer.
3. In Mark 11:22-24 Jesus has made some great promises with regard to prayer. Later, in the privacy of the upper room, Jesus will follow up this introduction to prayer by giving certain guidelines we must follow if our prayers are to be effective. List those guidelines as they are presented in John 14:13-15 (printed below)
And whatever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified by the Son. (14) If you shall ask anything in my name, that will I do. (15) If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:13-15)
We must pray in Jesus’ name (John 14:13a)—because only He, as the Righteous One who is pleasing to God, has complete access and acceptance with the Father (cp. Matthew 3:17). We should pray for things that will bring glory to God (John 14:13b)—i.e.; things that are in accordance with His commandments and in harmony with His will (cp. James 4:3). In order to have effective prayer lives, we must seek to live in obedience to Christ’s commandments (John 14:15).
4. What instruction does Jesus give in Mark 11:25 (printed below?)
And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against any one, forgive them; so that your Father who is in heaven may also forgive your trespasses. (Mark 11:25)
As we are praying, if we remember that someone has sinned against us and we are holding it against him, we must forgive him.
5. Why does Jesus give us the instruction to forgive others? See Matthew 6:14-15 (printed below)
…if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (15) But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15)
Jesus exhorts us to forgive those who have sinned against us because it is only by forgiving them that we ourselves will receive forgiveness from our heavenly Father. Note: We are saved by grace, and that grace will cause us and enable us to forgive others just as we have been forgiven. But if we do not extend forgiveness to others this is an indication that we have not truly believed in Christ the Savior and become the recipients of His saving grace.