Posted by: pmarkrobb | April 2, 2012

the appearance of

If you study today (Monday) in the last week of Jesus, you will find that it’s all about a tree and a temple.  The temple story is more dramatic and certainly well-known; the scene where he is turning over money tables and clearing the temple of all that has corrupted it.  But it is his early morning teaching when he happens upon a fig tree that sets the table for the action that is to come.

In Mark 11:12, we find Jesus making the trip again with his disciples from the town of Bethany to Jerusalem.  Not far out of town he spots a fig tree in full leaf.  This would not have been odd, since fig trees in that region would be in leaf at that time of year.  What would also be true is that a fig tree would not have full size fruit until mid-summer but would typically have small knobs called taqsh, that would drop off before the real fruit is formed.  These small knobs were edible and would often be offered to or eaten by the poor.  It is also important to note that if a fig tree in full leaf in the spring did not have taqsh, there would be no fruit on that tree that year.  This is how Jesus finds this fig tree – in full leaf, giving the clear impression to any passer-by that there was fruit.

Jesus knows, of course, there is no taqsh on this tree, but he takes the opportunity to teach a critical lesson, applicable to the life of any believer.  Jesus curses the tree, saying “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.“  I wonder if it seemed a bit drastic to any of the disciples.  Was Jesus hungry and became angry when he discovered that his hunger would go unsatisfied?  Obviously, no.  Then why would Jesus stop at and curse a fruitless tree?  I believe it’s because that particular tree symbolized something he does not want to be true in the life of anyone who chooses to follow him.  In his curse Jesus seems to be saying, “Don’t be a believer deceiver.”  Don’t be someone who takes great care and effort to give the appearance of a follower, but who brings a curse on God’s name by the way they live.  This tree is a poison to the kingdom Jesus is here to announce.

Having introduced this critical truth, Jesus continues onto Jerusalem with his disciples.  But before we arrive at the temple, I believe it is critically important to note that this is not the first time Jesus has been to the temple this week.  As parade day ended, Mark 11:11 says, “And He went into Jerusalem and into the temple complex. After looking around at everything, since it was already late, He went out to Bethany with the Twelve.”   Sometime in the late afternoon of that joyous day, Jesus purposed a visit to the temple.  The Bible doesn’t describe the scene, but I imagine that he finds a moment to slip away from his disciples and the crowd.  He often did the to pray, so there is precedent.  His visit to the temple is also not described in any great detail, which might lead one to believe that he simply took a stroll, and because it was late, he left and went back to Bethany.  But a closer look at the Greek suggests that this “looking around” was anything but a casual stroll, just checking the place out.

Much time and history had transpired since Solomon was assigned the task of building a fitting house for God.  This temple had been rebuilt by Herod, and while it was an architectural marvel, it was a far cry from a house of prayer or a dwelling place for the Most High.  Using time as a backdrop to the scene, this was Passover.  And their modern celebration of Passover had become quite the spectacle.  Hundreds of thousands of out-of-towners made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover, and the temple was at the center of the bustle.  Passover had become big business.  ”Vendors” packed the temple offering a myriad of services to the Passover pilgrim to “aid” in their celebration.  Before purchasing your Passover lamb, you first had to make a stop at the currency exchange booth, where someone was ready to take your native currency and exchange it for temple coinage (at a profit, of course).  Also from all that I have read, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the modern-day equivalents of a t-shirt vendor, carnival game operator and timeshare salesman, all packed within the temple walls, ready to “service” their out-of-town guests.

Jesus has observed it all the evening before and in his visit Monday we hear of no “looking around”, or “fact-finding”.  And we do not hear of a “posse” in the form of assistance from the disciples or any of his followers.  No, Jesus enters the temple with full intent and claims this as a one-man, or better described, God-man job.  Immediately he begins to make a mess of the mess that has been made of his Father’s house.  He turns over tables and drives out every last remnant of evil and vice that had corrupted this sacred place.  And in the midst of his righteous anger and action, scripture says that he taught, and reclaimed the temple as a house of prayer for all nations.

Tuesday’s dawn would provide punctuation to the powerful teaching in the midst of Monday’s extraordinary events.  As Jesus and the disciples once again left Bethany, they passed by a familiar place and witnessed a familiar sight.  Except this time there was no life or leaf to deceive the passer-by as to the existence of fruit on the cursed fig tree.  On seeing it, Peter exclaimed “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”  Now, apart from Peter sounding like a master of the obvious, think about what the disciples were looking at.  When was the last time you saw a tree completely wither in a day?  And add onto that, when was the last time you saw someone curse a tree with words, and see it completely wither in a day? 

The tree and the temple – one cursed and one reclaimed.  Both are strong and conjoined lessons of God’s hatred for the outward appearance of fruit with no evidence from within.  Let the events of this day cause us to honestly examine our own lives and allow the Spirit to do any necessary house cleaning.


Responses

  1. Encouraged again! 🙂 Father, help/allow/cause me to continue to die to all the outer stuff and that the true me be more and more of what I and others see and know. Both the good and the bad of where I am at, who I am, – exposed. Exposed by a gracious, caring, loving. transforming light – My Father.

  2. Thanks for including me. Father fill me

  3. get your taqsh on. Thanks for the lesson, Mark.


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