In the first part of today’s text Mark uses what is known as a “sandwich construction”. This means that he begins narrating an incident, interrupts it by another incident, which is completed, and then the first incident, which was begun and left incomplete, is completed. There are various reasons for the use of this technique.
Here, Mark begins by narrating what is known as the cursng of the fig tree (11,12-14). Only Mark tells us that “it was not the season for figs” and yet, when Jesus did not find any fruit on the tree he cursed the tree. It is the only “miracle” that occurs within the Jerusalem section of the Gospel (11,1 -15,47) and the fact that it destroys nature does not fit the pattern of the other miracles of Jesus, which make people whole. Mark wants his readers therefore, to see the symbolic character of the miracle of the curring of the fig tree and associate its fate with the fate of the Temple, which is also not producing the fruit, it is meant to produce.
Mark keeps in suspense what happens to the fig tree till much later (11,20-21), after he has narrated the incident that he places in the middle of the sandwich. This is what is known as the Cleansing of the Temple (11,15-19). It is an incident that is narrated by all the four Gospels though John narrates it quite differently from the manner in which the Synoptics do and even within the Synoptics there are slight differences. Mark is the only one of the evangelists who tells us that Jesus would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple which indicates that for Mark, Jesus has the power to determine what activity is proper to the Temple. The teaching of Jesus is a combination of two Old Testament texts Isaiah 56,7 and Jeremiah 7,11. The chief priests and scribes take affront when they hear about this incident and look for a way to kill Jesus.
Mark then continues the first incident (the cursing of the fig tree) and completes it (11,20-21). The fig tree has indeed withered. This is what will happen to the Temple if it continues in the way of the fig tree, namely if it does not produce the fruit required of it.
Peter is amazed that the fig tree has withered and comments on it (11,22). This gives an opportunity for the Marcan Jesus to teach has disciples about prayer (11,23-25). The first saying about the mountain being thrown into the sea (11,23) brings out forcefully through a dramatic metaphor what is possible for one whose faith does not waver. The second saying (11,24) applies to the community the general principle of the previous verse, namely that there must be absolute confidence in prayer. The final saying (11,25) speaks about forgiveness as a condition to receive the forgiveness of God. This is because if there is unforgiveness in one’s heart it is not possible to receive the forgiveness of God. The unforgiveness acts a block to receiving God’s forgiveness.
Most doctors today are convinced that the larger majority of the illnesses we suffer are psychosomatic. This means that because our mind/heart/internal being (psuche) is affected, our body/external (sōma) will also be affected. Keeping grudges, harbouring feelings of revenge, nurturing anger and not forgiving are sure ways to spoil one’s health. Illnesses like acidity, hyper tension, fistula, piles, stress diabetes, high blood pressure, ulcers and many others can be controlled and even avoided if one removes the entire negative from one’s heart and mind.