Today, Mark 11 (cf. Matthew 21 and Luke 19) tells us that Jesus returns from Bethany to Jerusalem. Jesus proclaims that his hour of glory is here and continues to direct His efforts toward His Passion. Four actions stand out today before He returns to Bethany (Mark 11:19) in the evening. Jesus
- Curses the barren fig tree (Mark 11:18 and Matthew 21:18-19)
- Cleanses the temple to make room for the Gentiles to worship God the Father (Luke 19: 45-28, Matthew 21:12-13 and Mark 11:15-18)
- Speaks to the Greeks who seek Him out (John 12:20-36)
- Chides the people of Jerusalem for their unbelief (John 12:37-50)
The Barren Fig Tree
As the Gospel recounts, Jesus was hungry and seeing a barren fig tree, curses it, which subsequently withered up. This may seem like a pretty harsh response for not having any fruit on it but there is something deeper at play. The fig tree was a symbol of Israel and it was barren.
The temple leaders over time develop practices that neither obeyed the Law of the Lord as the Father had intended nor had they been feeding His children. Even after three years of ministry, the temple leaders’ hearts were hardened and were missing the time of the Lord’s visitation (Luke 19: 37-48). Remember what our Lord said in John 4:34,
Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.”
Jesus demonstrated physically what had already taken place in their hearts.
Cleansing the Temple
The Holy of Holies in the temple had four courts, three reserved for the layperson. The layout consisted of concentric squares including: Court of the Gentiles (Outermost), Court of the Women, Court of Israel (men) and the innermost, Court of the Priests (In this court of course is the Holy of Holies).
During this period of time in ancient Israel’s history, the money changers and those selling sacrificial animals were an important part of temple worship. Many people travelled great distances and many countries to worship in the temple. This, of course, necessitated the ability to exchange currency and purchase the animals for sacrifice. These sellers and money changers could do their business in the Royal Stoa or the Royal Porch.
The challenge in the Gospel today is that they had moved out of the Royal Porch and moved into the Court of the Gentiles. But why? The Jews had no love for the Gentiles even through God the Father had commanded then to teach and lead the Gentiles in the ways of the Lord (Isaiah 2:3). The Jews put the money changers and the market sellers in the one area that was reserved for the Gentiles to worship. So why did Jesus drive them out – to make a place and a way for them to pray.
Greeks Seek Jesus
In John’s Gospel, the Greeks have come to speak with the Lord. What is interesting is that this seems to have been the “trigger” for our Lord’s impending passion. When Andrew and Philip approach our Lord and tell Him the Greeks wanted to speak with Him, Jesus answers them by exclaiming,
…“The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.” (John 12:23)
He continues by prophesying His Passion, Death and Resurrection and how the ruler of this world is about to be thrown out under judgement – though veiled in enigmatic speech (Isaiah 6:9-10).
Chiding for Unbelief
After speaking about his death the Jews refuse to believe Him. In response, the Lord tells them that they are walking in darkness and cannot see. He then leaves and the Gospel of John recounts that
Though he had done so many signs before them, yet they did not believe in him;… (John 12:37)
Jesus then retreats back to Bethany.
Take-away for Holy Monday
Today, let us pray with Jesus and consider the areas of our lives that are in disbelief or do not allow us to worship the Lord. Then, ask Jesus to drive it out and purify us. Time to prepare for the Bridegroom.