Scripture Reading: Mark 11:12-19, Isaiah 56:1-8
I have always wanted to see the Grand Canyon, run a marathon, eat vegetarian, and be the kind of woman who cleans and cooks on a regular, rotating schedule. I’m putting these things off until I’m less busy with children, and work, and hassling my husband about his beard. (It’s a full time job.) There is a reason why we all resolve to live our lives slightly differently every year, and there’s a reason none of us make all these grand, global changes all at once. It’s because we’re human.
Our lives are built in seasons. We all go through seasons of pain, growth, contentment, and right now, I think my family is in a season of noise. Is that a season? Goodness, there is simply so much volume right now. But I know it will pass, the children will eventually leave, and we will come to a quieter and lonelier season.
Twice in this very short passage from Mark, I noticed that Jesus is speaking and there is someone who hears Him. The first is in chapter 11 when He curses the fig tree, saying, “‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again!’ And his disciples heard it” (v. 14). The second follows just after He cleanses the temple, declaring that it has been turned into a den of thieves, and “the chief priests and the scribes heard it…” (v. 18).
An easy first response to this passage is to assume that Jesus is very grouchy with the fig tree and the folks running the temple, but obviously there’s more going on here. He is bringing judgment to Israel. The fig tree failed to bear fruit, and the leaders failed to protect the temple. In both cases, when Jesus speaks with pronouncement of judgment, someone hears it—first the disciples and then the chief priests and the scribes.
Jesus is not just proclaiming judgment; He is proclaiming final judgment. There is a season for repentance, and that season is now (Mark 1:15). Salvation is now at hand, and now is the time to repent. Jesus isn’t calling His disciples and the chief priests to plan on repenting, to resolve to repent later, when they are less busy or when they have more money or when the kids are older. He is calling them to repent now; we are not promised tomorrow.
When we hear judgment, there are only two responses. The disciples heard it. The chief priests heard it. They could either choose to follow Him or choose to reject Him. It’s so stark and shocking to look honestly at what Jesus is calling all of us to do: to walk in the way of life or to go the way of death.
It simplifies all the other seasons of life if I know that first and foremost, there are only two ways to respond when we hear Christ speaking: walk in the way of judgment or the way of repentance.
The good news is that Christ has come to clean out our thieving hearts, and make them hearts of prayer. The signs of the fig tree and the temple cleansing are both reminders that God is making a people for Himself, that He has brought salvation to us. He gathers His own to Himself in all seasons.