“On the following day, when they had left Bethany, Jesus felt hungry. He noticed a fig-tree in the distance covered with leaves, and he walked up to it to see if he could find any fruit on it. But when he got to it, he could find nothing but leaves, for it was not yet time for the figs. Then Jesus spoke to the tree, “May nobody ever eat fruit from you!” And the disciples heard him say it.
Then they came into Jerusalem and Jesus went into the Temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of the dove-sellers, and he would not allow people to carry their water-pots through the Temple. And he taught them and said, “Doesn’t the scripture say, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations?’. But you have turned it into a ‘den of thieves!’”
The chief priests and scribes heard him say this and tried to find a way of getting rid of him. But they were in fact afraid of him, for his teaching had captured the imagination of the people.”
As we begin this Holy Week meditation, I urge you to spend some time reading the entire story for yourself. It will only take a few minutes each day, but it will engage your mind and heart in a profound way. If you will take the time to journey with Christ to the cross each day, I believe that Easter Sunday will be a celebration of deep spiritual renewal for you. At the end of each post this week, I will list the scriptures that would be most helpful to you in this process. Grace to you my friends.
We find Jesus on Monday morning. He has entered Jerusalem with much fanfare the day before and when evening came, He and the disciples had retreated to the small village of Bethany (about 2 miles away,) for the night.
On this 2nd day of the Passion Week, we find two shocking events. We see a side of Jesus that makes us very uncomfortable: anger. We see Him cursing a tree for being pretty, but having no real fruit. We see Him angrily flipping over tables and forcibly removing people from the Temple.
Can you imagine the chaos? Imagine being one of the disciples viewing these events. One minute you are walking into God’s holy house, the next your master has gone crazy and begun manhandling people and breaking things. Livestock begins running all over, money is flying through the air, the normally gentle Jesus is yelling and scaring people. What is wrong with Him? Doesn’t He know that this is the way things work in the Temple during Passover? Worship has always taken place this way, as long as you can remember.
And what about that poor little tree? Everybody knows it isn’t time for fruit yet. So why did He get so mad and curse it? It shriveled up and died for goodness sake. We don’t know why He is in such a bad mood, after all He had an incredible welcome yesterday with a parade and cheering crowds, the whole nine yards.
What in the world would make Jesus so angry?
I would love to hear your conclusions, but as I meditate and think on these things one word comes to mind: emptiness. For me, both the tree and the temple are a symbol of emptiness.
The tree looks appealing and promises something sweet, only to have nothing to offer on closer inspection. The temple, the house of the living God, is glorious to behold and it promises redemption and hope for the oppressed people of Israel. But what are the faithful finding upon entering? A place devoid of spiritual nourishment. A place controlled for the good of merchants and the temple authorities, not for the people of God. As Jesus calls it, “a den of thieves,” we see the people that need God the most being exploited and denied His presence. Never what He intended. No wonder Jesus was angry.
What am I to learn from this day in Christ’s life? These events were so important that they were included in the cannon of holy scripture. Therefore, I belief there is a deep message there for us.
I don’t know about you, but praying through this day reminds me that what seems to grieve Jesus the most is hypocrisy.
As a Christian, do I look good on the outside and preach a good game, all the while being empty inside?
Am I more concerned about what the church is doing for me, or should I be concerned about what the church should be doing for those on the outside?
Does my Lord look at me with a smile as I bear good fruit and invite others to the kingdom banquet?
Or is He angered by my outer appearance of being a follower, all the while my heart is not His?
Does my witness to others lead people to Jesus or further away from Him?
These are my questions upon further reflection about today. I would love to hear yours.
Peace my friends.
Forgive my spiritual emptiness and my self-centeredness. Help me, Lord, to honor Your sacrifice for me this day. Help me to be conformed to Your holy image. Point out anything in me that brings You to despair, and renew my heart to love those people and things that You love. Help me to be authentic and a welcoming witness to those that still seek You.
With great thanks to my Savior I pray,
For further reading, consider:
Matthew chapters 21-23: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+21&version=NLT
Luke 19:45 – 20:47 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke+19&version=NLT