ABC:Mark 11

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Verse 20[edit]

TheThinkingAtheist.com claims the Bible is wrong about the following passage, and makes the following comments (italicized) in the section "Did the Fig Tree That Jesus Cursed Wither Immediately or Overnight?" [1]

Matthew 21:19 And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.

It happened immediately, and the disciples were amazed.

Mark 11:20 And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.

The dried up fig tree was discovered the following morning.

Actually both chapters say that the dried up fig tree was discovered the following morning and that the disciples were amazed. Matthew 21 just doesn't mention the original cursing, but only mentions Peter's recollection of it, while Mark mentions both.

Mark 11:11 And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve. ¶ And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry:
13 And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.
14 And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.

Mark 11:20 And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.
21 And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.

Matthew 21:17 And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.
18 ¶ Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.
19 And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.
20 And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!

Sequence of Events[edit]

As observed by CARM, the order of events is identical. [2]

  1. Jesus is travelling between Bethany and Jerusalem. (Matthew 21:10-11, Mark 11:11)
  2. Jesus while coming from Bethany curses the fig tree. (Mark 11:11-14).
  3. Jesus violently kicks the salesmen out of Jerusalem's temple. (Matthew 21:12-14, Mark 11:15-17)
  4. Worried Pharisees express displeasure with Jesus' actions. (Matthew 21:15-16, Mark 11:18)
  5. Jesus leaves Jerusalem in the evening to lodge in Bethany, presumably for the cheap hotels. (Matthew 21:17, Mark 11:19)
  6. Peter reminds everyone about the fig tree that Jesus cursed earlier, and the disciples marvel that it has withered away. (Matthew 21:18-20, Mark 11:20-21)

The only difference is that Matthew does not mention Jesus' original cursing of the fig tree when it occurred, instead mentioning only Peter's recollection that it occurred - compare Mark 11:21 and Matthew 21:18-20. In both cases Peter recalls what occurred, and marvels that it has withered away so quickly. Matthew just mentions a summary of what occurred the next day.

Verse 24, Are Prayers Always Answered?[edit]

Patheos' Bob Seidensticker claims there is a contradiction here and makes the following comments (italicized):[3]

Jesus promises that prayers are answered

Jesus says a lot about prayer, and he makes big claims for it.

Matthew 7:7 ¶ Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

Mark 11:24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.

John 14:12 ¶ Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

Apologists say that Jesus isn’t like a genie, but they need to reread their Bibles. Jesus really does say, “Ask, and ye shall receive”—it’s in John 16:24. He says it without caveats. That promise has been tested uncountably many times, often by desperate people, but if Jesus answers, it’s indistinguishable from chance. (More on prayer here and here.)

The critic carelessly claims that Jesus makes no caveats when it comes to prayer, when in fact there are numerous caveats mentioned. First of all, Matthew 7:7 is in the context of Jesus' broader comments on prayer, (cp. Luke 11:1-13) that we should pray without repetition or asking for physical possessions, since God knows what we need without us asking Him. (Matthew 6:7-8) We are told not to concern ourselves in prayer with material possessions but treasure in Heaven, and that our hearts will only be in Heaven if that is where our treasure is. (Matthew 16:19-21) We should be content with food and clothing from God, seeking first God's kingdom and His righteousness. (Matthew 6:25-34)

Furthermore, Jesus' statement that if we ask we will receive was made concerning God's giving of the Holy Spirit to those who ask. (Luke 11:9-13) We are commanded to additionally pray, first and foremost, that God's will be done, not our own. (Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:2) Aside from food and clothing, we should not be asking for anything physical. (Matthew 6:11,25; Luke 11:3; 12:22-31) It is only when seeking God's kingdom first that we can expect God to eventually, in His own time, add more. (Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:31) Nor will this necessarily be in this life; we should be most concerned with treasures in the Kingdom of Heaven. (Luke 12:32-33; Matthew 6:19-20)

We can only expect God to receive our petitions if we are asking according to His will, after the manner Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6-7 and Luke 11-12. (1 John 5:14-15) Faith is more than just believing that God exists, but doing God's commandments because we trust in Him. (1 John 3:22-24) God does not hear prayers from those He has no relationship with, and for Him to hear us, we must have fully cleansed hearts, walking in full confidence and purity towards Him. (Hebrews 10:22-23) One thing that is freely given by God is wisdom, so long as those asking for it ask in faith without doubting. (James 1:5-7) Receiving from God is contingent not just upon asking God, but asking correctly in humility, out of love rather than lust, having submitted ourselves to God, drawing near to Him, with cleansed hands and purified hearts. (James 4:2-10)

As David writes in the Psalms, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." (Psalms 66:18) God only hears the prayer of the righteous. (Proverbs 15:29; 28:29; Isaiah 1:15) The blind man Jesus healed testified to this, saying "Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth." (John 9:31) Those who have despised God will be ignored by Him when trouble comes upon them. (Proverbs 1:29-30; Jeremiah 14:10-12) Those who have done evil to others and did not show mercy to them will be similarly be ignored by God during their times of trouble. (Zechariah 7:12-13; Micah 3:3-4; Ezekiel 8:17-18)

Receiving by asking in the name of Jesus (John 14:13-14) is contingent upon us abiding in Jesus and His words abiding in us, so that we do all of His commandments. (John 15:7) We are only Jesus' disciples if bearing fruit. (John 15:8) Furthermore, it requires two Christians agreeing upon something, not just one, in some cases. (Matthew 18:19) Prayer in faith, being able to work miracles, involves a holy, righteous life that seeks the glory of Jesus and God the Father, to do the Father's will not ours, asking in humility while focused on rewards in Heaven, not on Earth, having helped others as we hope for God to help us, ideally asking in fellowship with another Christian who meets those requirements.

Answered prayers follow after holiness. We should first be asking that if there is anything in our hearts not according to God's will that He will change us. Only when our hearts are right and pure before God can we expect to start asking for miracles. Put simply, we cannot expect God's blessings unless we are doing His will.

Sources[edit]

  1. Bible Contradictions. TheThinkingAtheist.
  2. Did the Tree that Jesus Cursed Wither Immediately or Overnight? Christian Apologetics Research Ministry.
  3. Seidensticker, P. (2018, October 20). "Top 20 Most Damning Bible Contradictions." Patheos.