Do you face a mountain in your life today?
A mountain of fear?
A mountain of failure?
A mountain of guilt?
A mountain of opposition?
A mountain of brokenness?
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:22-24)
Why will the mountain be thrown into the sea? Jesus said, “Because we serve a mountain moving God. He made the mountains, and He can move the mountains.”
So don’t ever be defeated by a mountain! God still has the power to move mountains. Join us as we go together on an adventure of seeking God’s mountain moving power.
Today, I want start by reading from Mark 11:11-24.
Jesus has just entered into Jerusalem in what’s sometimes called the triumphal entry. This is the week He was going to be crucified.
Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”
The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.
In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
Does anyone here feel bad for the fig tree in this story? It seems like a weird thing to do, doesn’t it?
What was going on there?
Do you think Jesus was just in a cranky mood when He got up that morning?
Well, we’re going to look at this idea of mountain moving prayer, because I believe we serve a mountain moving God.
I don’t know what mountain you face, but God still has the power to move mountains, and we’re going to go together on an adventure today, you and I, of seeking God’s mountain moving power. That’s what we’re doing today.
But before we get there, we have to wade through some learning about the first century context of this passage; otherwise we won’t get it.
Most people have no idea how much drama was in this scene or what a dangerous guy Jesus was. And I say this because I want to let you know if I lose you during this message, most likely it will be during the first part of the message where we just have to do some heavy lifting and learning together.
So I’m going to ask you to work real hard to stay with me for the next five minutes—okay?
I’m going to start with what Jesus is up to in the temple in Jerusalem. So let me provide a little backdrop.
Virtually every great city in the world, every great city in the ancient world certainly, gets started because it is either on a major waterway or on a trade route that makes it strategic for commerce or for military reasons, but not Jerusalem.
Jerusalem was not near any body of water. There were a few major roads in the ancient world. Jerusalem wasn’t on them.
There was one to the north that traveled east and west and connected several prominent cities.
There was another one that ran mostly north and south along the Mediterranean. It was very crowded. People didn’t like it very much at all.
There was one other that was farther inland. But Jerusalem itself was quite inaccessible. It was built in the hills, in the mountains.
There’s only one thing that made Jerusalem significant in its day — one thing and one thing only — and that was the temple.
By law every observant Israelite male was commanded to travel to Jerusalem to the temple on a regular basis. During festivals, the population of Jerusalem would double or more.
There would be pilgrims who would bring the temple tax that they were required to bring. They would bring it for themselves, and they would bring it for their relatives who might live a long way away and who couldn’t come on this festival.
And the temple tax provided huge amounts of capital, which was all stored in the temple treasury.
The chambers of the temple were regarded as the safest place in all of Israel for money. A lot of wealthy people put their funds in there as well.
So it was not just the temple. It served essentially as the bank of Israel as well.
Pilgrims would also bring money for food, wine, sacrifices, and relics. And that, as you can imagine, would give rise to shopkeepers and innkeepers in what today we would call a tourist economy.
All of that was built around the temple. A lot of people’s income was dependent on the temple.
In Jesus’ day, Herod was rebuilding the temple to such an extent that it took eighty years, and when it was done it was employing eighteen thousand construction workers, all of whose income was dependent upon the temple.
They employed about an equal number of priests.
Jerusalem dominated all of Israel. You have to understand this to get Jesus’ story here. It dominated all of Israel, not just religiously, but also politically, culturally, and economically for one reason, and that was the temple.
The temple was like the White House, Wall Street, the National Cathedral, and the Bank of America all rolled into one institution. That’s where all the power was.
It made Jerusalem dominant.
Without the temple, Jerusalem was an insignificant little hick town, just like Gilroy or Tracey or Fresno, something like that.
And no one in his right mind would take on the temple. That’s where all the power was. There was a lot of vested interest in making sure the temple was functioning well.
No one would take on the temple… but Jesus did.
He had very deep concerns about the temple, and they are not what I used to think.
What’s going on in this story is not just that a few people are violating zoning regulations by trying to make some money in the temple area and Jesus is upset about that. This is a much bigger deal.
Jesus in this passage quotes from the prophet Isaiah where God says:
My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.
Jew and Gentile.
Male and female.
Slave and free.
Rich and poor.
Everyone, God says.
What God is up to in this world is creating a community of redeemed persons. And the temple was supposed to serve that purpose.
But in Jesus’ day it was all divisions.
There would be a court called the court of Gentiles, and if you were a Gentile, you would come to a barrier and you couldn’t get past there.
Beyond that was the court of women, and if you were a woman, then you’d come to a wall, and you couldn’t get past there.
Beyond that was the court of priests, and if you were just a regular male Israelite, not a priest, you couldn’t get past that wall.
And so on to the holy of holies, the place where they thought of God dwelling the most.
The result of the temple’s divisions was that people felt separated from God. Every step was another division.
There was actually an inscription on the walls — this was in Jesus’ day. They found two copies of it: one in the nineteenth century and another one in the twentieth century. This is what the inscription said. This would have been on the wall. Jesus could have read this.
No foreigner is to enter within the enclosure around the temple area. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his death which will follow.
That’s kind of sobering isn’t it? Not real friendly to outsiders — “Come in here, walk past this wall, and you’ll have only yourself to blame for your death which will follow.”
Only one person — the high priest — had access to God and the holy of holies, and then only one day a year.
See what had happened was that the temple had become a barrier to Gentiles and to women. It had become a barrier to the poor who could not afford to buy sacrifices.
One of the reasons that Mark specifically mentions the dove sellers in this passage is that those were the sacrifices that the poor could only afford to buy.
They would end up giving their money to try to make things right with God, and it would end up lining the pockets of people who already had quite a lot of money.
And that’s what made Jesus really mad.
It was a barrier to people who were left to wonder: Will I ever give enough? Will I ever sacrifice enough? Will it ever be okay between me and God?
Jesus looks at all that going on and how it’s messing up the people that God wants to redeem and their mission for the world beyond it.
And Jesus says, “No! No! God says, ‘My house is going to be a house of prayer for all peoples.’”
And by the way, that’s God’s desire for this house — that it should be a house of prayer, a place where God is available and connecting with people of all nations, of all peoples.
Jesus is one man. He is the Son of God. We think of Him that way. But He became a real flesh and blood, limited human person. What can one person do to change this whole system where all the power is flowing one way?
Something else you need to know about Jesus. Jesus was, among other things, a prophet, and prophets didn’t just make speeches like we often think of them. Prophets also would act out divine messages in very symbolic, highly dramatic ways that no one could miss. They would do unforgettable things.
God had a prophet named Hosea marry a prostitute — think about this one — had him marry a prostitute as a way of symbolizing people’s unfaithfulness. No one would ever forget that who saw it.
God had a prophet named Ezekiel go out on the street and lie on his side for 390 days in a row to demonstrate the people’s rebellion for 390 years. His only job was to go lie on his side on the road for 390 days. Does anyone here think you have a dull job? Can you imagine that one? Just lie on your side for 390 days.
God had Isaiah take off his sackcloth and walk around — think about this — a prophet of God walked around Israel barefoot in his underwear for three years — every day for three years — to show how God was going to humiliate Egypt.
A prophet, among other things, was a kind of divine performance artist. Prophets would do very striking, dramatic things to sear into people’s memories what God was saying.
And that’s part of what Jesus was.
So when Jesus picks up a whip and goes into the temple and starts throwing tables over, He’s not doing this to keep a few isolated people from making a few bucks. He knows they’re going to be back tomorrow.
Jesus is declaring, in the way that prophets did, that the whole temple system is going to come down.
This is not a story about the cleansing of the temple, which is what people often think. It’s a story about the destruction of the temple. That’s what Jesus is saying.
Anyone watching Him knows that. He doesn’t do this quietly.
In Mark 11:11 the day before this Jesus walks into Jerusalem and looks around the temple. But the text says that Jesus saw it was already late, so He left because most of the people had already gone home. Jesus wants some witnesses for this unbelievable thing He’s going to do.
Do you understand the kind of man we follow? Do you understand the drama of this story? In an act of breathtaking courage, as a matter of public record, Jesus is single-handedly — without a sword, without a soldier — taking on all of the greatest powers of His day, who have deeply vested interests in maintaining the system that He says is going to be overthrown.
He says, “The day is coming now when there will be no more sacrificing of animals for getting to God. I will be the ultimate sacrifice. The day is coming now when there is going to be no more barriers, no more exclusion, no more walls. Anybody who wants to — Jew or Gentile, male or female — can walk right on in. The day is coming when there is going to be no more need for this temple.”
And He taught about that quite explicitly.
“This temple is going to be destroyed. No more pilgrimages, purchases, temple taxes, relics, or poor people giving up all they have. Now, God is going to be available anytime, anywhere, to anyone who wants. And it’s all happening through me. The whole kingdom is happening through me, through my teaching. And this little ragtag community that I’m forming and people coming to me that are lepers and prostitutes and tax collectors, it’s all happening right here. A new community is being formed, and it’s going to be true: My house will be a house of prayer for all nations.”
Aren’t you proud to follow such a person?
Do you understand this is why it says in verse eighteen that all those who were in power with a vested interest in this system began looking for a way to kill Him? It’s no wonder. Of course they did.
Do you understand that the minute Jesus picked up that whip and walked into that temple He was signing His own death warrant and He knew exactly what He was doing?
This is why Mark says the crowd was amazed at His teaching. Everyone’s jaw was on the floor. No one would ever forget that moment, because this guy was either a nut with a death wish or this was the bravest human being they had ever seen.
They all know what’s coming. This is somebody who believed to the core of His being and was willing to stake His life on it that God could do the impossible.
Now this explains the fig tree story as well. The fig tree is not just about Jesus’ appetite. This is what prophets did. The fig tree was an image of the fruitlessness and barrenness of this whole system that left people spiritually confused and divided, and Jesus is saying, that day is done.
The next morning Peter comes along, and Jesus was right. Jesus says, “This mountain’s going to move,” and that mountain did move. Jesus was crucified, and He became the ultimate sacrifice. No more sacrificing going on here this morning.
He was put in the tomb and then the stone was rolled away. And a new community really did get formed, and everyone was welcomed — Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. There had never been any community like this.
It really did become true, in and because of Jesus, that His people, His house, would become a house of prayer for all nations.
Do you understand nothing like that had ever happened before? Never.
God moved that mountain.
Alright, here’s what Jesus asks of His followers, you and me. He gathers them around Him, and they’re looking at the mountain where the temple is. And Jesus says, “See that mountain? That’s going to be moved; that’s going to be cast into the sea.”
And it was.
Why is it going to happen?
Jesus says, “Because we serve a mountain moving God. He made the mountains, and He can move the mountains.”
So don’t you ever be defeated by a mountain —
not a mountain of fear,
not a mountain of failure,
not a mountain of guilt,
not a mountain of challenge,
not a mountain of opposition.
Don’t ever be defeated by a mountain, because that mountain can move.
Now where does that power come from? Where does that kind of strength come from?
One single word: Prayer.
Jesus has only one command here. Just devote yourself to prayer.
He says, “That kind of power is available to you, and you don’t have to get any bigger or any stronger or any smarter or any better than you are right now. I just want you to do one thing. I just want you to pray.”
So today is our day. That was Jesus’ day. That was His follower’s day. This is your day. You have your mountain.
So I’m going to ask you to identify now, if God can move one mountain in your life, what would it be?
Maybe it’s a character flaw that you want taken out, that you’ve wrestled with a long time.
Maybe it’s someone you love who doesn’t know Jesus, and you’ve prayed for them, you’ve wanted them to come to know Christ for a long time.
Maybe it’s a mountain of debt or financial pressure.
Maybe it’s a mountain of anxiety.
Maybe someone needs physical healing.
Maybe you’ve lost your job.
Here’s what you came to hear this morning. Our God is still in the mountain moving business.
That’s the good news.
There is one thing you ought to know about this community, one thing you ought to know, because this is what this message is about.
This is a place where people pray.
A lot of other stuff may not always get done exactly right.
We live in a part of the world that is famous for having people who are real high functioning, gifted and bright. That’s not what this church has been built on. It’s been built on one thing. People around here pray.
We have a group of people who meet for prayer just about every day of the week to pray for Blue Oaks. That doesn’t always happen at churches.
And that doesn’t even count all the mountain moving prayer that happens in ministries and in small groups and in individuals all over this church.
We could probably go around this room today, and there would be hundreds of stories of mountain moving prayer in people’s lives around here.
My question for you this morning is: Are you willing to do this?
Today, are you willing to trust God enough to start praying for some mountain to get moved? Because that can happen in your life.
I want you to hear one such story of mountain moving prayer in the life of someone in our church.
Video: Story of mountain moving prayer getting answered.
Here’s the question I want to ask you:
Am I focused on the mountain? Or am I focused on the mountain moving God?
Is my attention fixed on the mountain, my problem, my challenge, or is my mind really thoroughly preoccupied with this God who is able to make a move, this God who made Jesus feel unbelievably secure and gave the kind of courage to let Him walk into a temple and throw tables over even though He knew it meant He was going to be killed?
Because if I’m focused on the mountain — and I face them and you do too — when that happens for me, I can feel it in my spirit. I get overwhelmed. I get anxious. I feel inadequate. I get preoccupied with myself and my own little life. It chokes all the joy in life out of me — until I turn back around and look at this mountain moving God, and then I’m reminded. You know what? It’s not about me. It’s not about how strong I am or smart I am or clever I am. It’s just about God. And my job is just to turn to Him. It’s His job to move the mountain.
That’s why Jesus says:
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
It doesn’t mean that you always get what you want. What it does mean is this: never give in to the mountain.
Something happens when you stop focusing on the mountain and start focusing on God. Something happens.
I’ll tell you about some friends. Their mountain was their marriage. Their marriage had suffered about every kind of hit and ding a marriage can suffer. About five years ago, it was done. There was no love left. They were counting down the days until the kids graduated and left home so they could separate.
She was taking a class on finances so she would be able to manage her finances and handle life on her own — it was done.
They were sitting in church one Sunday morning — going to church was about the only thing they would still do together. Mostly they would go to church and sit listening to sermons, thinking how badly the other person needed to hear what it was they were listening to, and then jab each other in the rib cage! Do you ever do that? The ministry of the rib cage!
The message that morning was Jesus teaching the need to love your enemies and pray for those who mistreat you.
All of a sudden a thought penetrated the wife of this couple. She thought, “I know who my enemy is—it’s my husband. He’s the one I can’t love. He’s my enemy, and Jesus said I ought to pray for him. I can’t make myself love him — I can’t even make myself like him — but I can pray for him. If I’m a follower of Jesus, that’s what I’m supposed to do.”
So she started to pray for her husband. For more years than she could count, she had been looking at a mountain of anger and hurt and resentment and bitterness and wounds the size of Mount Everest.
If you had asked her: What’s the one mountain in your life you know will never move? She would have told you in a heartbeat that it’s her marriage, her husband.
But when she prayed, she started to focus on God, and God is bigger than the mountain.
Something started to happen in her, and then it started to happen in her husband. Something started to melt in both of them. Now that mountain has been thrown into the sea. They’re so happy together today!
I want to tell you something, and this is true: Our God is still in the business of moving mountains.
So what’s the mountain that you have in your life — where do you most want to see God at work?
I want to challenge you that between now and the end of 2021 your job is just to pray. You don’t have to pray two hours a day; you can just talk to God when you’re getting ready in the morning or while you’re out walking around or while you’re driving.
But right now, would you take a moment and think about — what’s your mountain? Where does God need to be at work?
And just commit to praying about it until the ned fo the year.
And I don’t know what the timing will be; that’s up to God.
And I don’t know how He will answer; that’s up to God.
Your job is just don’t quit praying. Don’t let the mountain win. Whatever you do, whatever the mountain is, don’t let the mountain win because we serve a mountain moving God.
And He says, “All things are possible.”
And Jesus said that the power that made Him such a courageous, unbelievable agent of God, that same power is available to you.
Alright let me pray for you and then Michaela and the team will lead us in a closing song.
Blue Oaks Church