Monday: Jesus Cleanses the Temple
Open Your Bible
Mark 11:12-19, Isaiah 56:1-8
Why is Jesus looking for figs out of season? I’m not mad when I can’t get a good red strawberry in March—they are just out of season and I’ll have to wait. No hard feelings, you juicy little strawberries! We’ll meet again in summer. But Jesus sees the fig tree advertising with some glorious fiddle-y leaves and He assumes that those leaves promise fruit. Alas, the promise of fruit on this tree is an empty one.
Okay, could we still be on good terms with a strawberry plant even if she were adorned in dark, waxy green leaves in early spring? Yup. No problem. I’d likely think it was strange, share the protein bar packed in my pocket with companions, and keep on hiking. So why was Jesus so disappointed in the fig tree, even angry at it?
If you read the immediately following verses, the judgment of the fig tree is a direct parallel to the judgment of the temple. In each case, God’s wrath is visited upon self-righteous hypocrisy, on those who feign life, but are empty of it. The appearance and the substance were in conflict; just like the temple in Jerusalem, it had the show of fruitfulness but was in fact barren.
We are all prone to boast good things, but less prone to deliver. And Jesus has our number: “You’ll recognize them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:16). Just as we ought to hunger and thirst after righteousness, so Christ as our Lord, hungers and thirsts to see righteousness borne out in our lives (Matthew 5:6). It is the fruit He is looking for. To find instead a vain and hypocritical show of faith, a surface religion, a pretended devotion, and hidden behind it a false and worldly heart, is an affront to His Lordship.
This is also a destructive act from the hand of Jesus, which is telling, as it should signify to us that which most stirs His righteous anger. The temple of our hearts is to be full of prayer, full of His Word, full of the Spirit of Christ. The temple of our hearts can too easily become a den of thievery, stealing the benefits of the gospel for our own gain, a showy righteousness that draws the applause of men, the lining of our own pockets, and the preening of our own pride.
We can look gorgeously leafy from afar, yet up close we are shrivelled and dry. But He is our spring of hope. With Him, our fruit looks like worship, obedience, and prayer. We ought to be full of juicy, bright fruit for the Lord. Whether we’re feeling like dry husks or like new blossoms, we don’t have to produce fruit out of thin air. Jesus is our source of life.