Holy Monday, April 11, 2022 | Mark 11:12 -25
The Very Rev. Aidan Smith
“If you have anything against anyone, forgive. So, when you pray, your Father heaven will also forgive you.” This kind of conditional statement can tie some people in knots. What about when we have a hard time forgiving someone? What about when the hurt is just too big?
Jesus is talking about much more than our ability to forgive, forget, and move on with our lives. When Jesus flips tables in the Temple and curses the fig tree (a common Biblical image for ancient Israel), he’s enacting and embodying an important theological truth about the Temple’s sacrificial and religious system. Though both the Temple and the sacrificial system were good—they were God’s plan after all—in the end, they couldn’t transform the human heart. They couldn’t set a person free from the bonds of sin. They couldn’t produce love or help an enemy forgive an enemy. In the Book of Hebrews, we read that animal sacrifices only served as an annual reminder of humanity’s sins but failed to provide the way to forgiveness. It will take far more than the blood of pigeons, bulls, and goats to transform the human person. In the end, these religious systems couldn’t bear spiritual fruit and like the fig tree, withered. But God didn’t abandon his people in a state of spiritual death. He made a way for us to live.
In the previous chapter, we’re reminded that Jesus came “to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, a sacrifice once offered for the sins of the world. Though the blood of animals fails to change us, the blood of the Lamb of God makes all things new. By the end of this Holy Week, that’s exactly what we’ll see happen. Jesus will die and through his sacrifice, the forgiveness of God will reach all people. Everyone will have access to the boundless grace and mercy of God. He’s already forgiven you for everything.
So, instead of getting wrapped up in conditional statements about forgiveness, understand that God has unconditionally forgiven you, no matter what you’ve done. And if that is true, why not forgive your friend? Or your ex-wife? Or your old boss? Or your son? Or…fill in the blank. We might not like it, but God’s transforming love and forgiveness reaches them too.
We’ve been set on a new path of reconciliation. We’ve been reconciled to God. God calls us to be reconciled to our neighbors. He makes it possible, but he invites us to walk with him on the journey.
Fr. Aidan is the Dean of Trinity Cathedral. He’s been married to Mel for 15 years and takes responsibility for the two incredibly cute but loud kids at church (Felicity, 5 and Solomon, 3). The Smiths also have a geriatric, one-eyed dog named Coho from Aidan’s hometown in northwestern Alaska.