“12 The next day when they came out from Bethany, He was hungry. 13 After seeing in the distance a fig tree with leaves, He went to find out if there was anything on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples heard it.”
“20 Early in the morning, as they were passing by, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 21 Then Peter remembered and said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that You cursed is withered.”
22 Jesus replied to them, “Have faith in God. 23 I assure you: If anyone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, all the things you pray and ask for — believe that you have received them, and you will have them. 25 And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your wrongdoing. [26 But if you don’t forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your wrongdoing.]””
Mark 11:12-14; 20-26
Here we find the only destructive miracle in the Gospels. This cursed fig tree, that should have borne at least some edible buds, was entirely fruitless. Fig trees have been symbols of Israel throughout different eras in the Old Testament, specifically within the prophets. And yet again, this fruitless fig tree stands as a witness against the nation.
Looking back to the beginning of the Abrahamic covenant in Genesis 14, we see that God intended for Israel to be a blessing to the nations. They would serve God and in turn bear witness to the Gentile nations, teaching them and blessing them in His Name. But they became a group of navel-gazers, looking inward and neglecting those nations and peoples whom they had been tasked with serving.
Just like the priests in the tabernacle and temple were meant to serve in the presence of God and bear witness to Israel through their ministry and teaching, Israel was meant to bear fruit for the nations in the same way. But here, they stand fruitless, and so stand cursed.
And so Jesus shows His disciples that faith is simply a matter of sincere belief and truthful expectation. It’s not a ritual to play out or something you are born into. Faith is an active, intentional thing. We trust God in faith and then move in that faith. Fruit comes from an active faith. The fruitless life is obviously, then, unacceptable.
As we GoLove people in Jesus’ Name, we must understand that it is to be done in, through and with faith. Faith in God, in His calling on us, in the works He desires to do in and through us, all this must be acted upon so that fruit is born for Him and for the Kingdom. It is not an option to be fruitless in our lives, fruitlessness does not honor Him or draw people to Him. Faith bears fruit for God, not out of obligation or ritual, but out of love and thanksgiving.
“1 When they approached Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany near the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples 2 and told them, “Go into the village ahead of you. As soon as you enter it, you will find a young donkey tied there, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here right away.'”
4 So they went and found a young donkey outside in the street, tied by a door. They untied it, 5 and some of those standing there said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the donkey?’ 6 They answered them just as Jesus had said, so they let them go. 7 Then they brought the donkey to Jesus and threw their robes on it, and He sat on it.
8 Many people spread their robes on the road, and others spread leafy branches cut from the fields. 9 Then those who went ahead and those who followed kept shouting:
He who comes in the name
of the Lord is the blessed One!
10 The coming kingdom
of our father David is blessed!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
11 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.”
What a strange mix of emotions must have been running through Jesus’ heart this day. Celebration, laughter and joy tempered with an anticipation of the terrible events yet to come that are now set in motion. Happiness at seeing the people recognize Him for who He is, but also a sadness because they only understand the surface of what this action means. These who shout ‘Hosanna’ will also shout ‘Crucify’ in less than a week.
There are times where I have trouble being in the moment because I am anticipating and thinking about what is yet to come. There are plans to execute, arrangements to be made, people to catch up with & other things to do. So, I wonder if Jesus was looking around the edge of the city toward Golgotha as He entered that day. I wonder if the events of Thursday and Friday, yet to come, we’re now occupying His heart and mind. Was He able to focus and receive the adulation and worship He was due with His whole heart? Did He smile and engage with people, or was this a very serious thing for Him? My human heart and mind cannot begin to think what His heart and mind were capable of or tended towards.
This look at the Temple complex, now modified by man beyond God’s plan, in its last days of purpose and needed use must have been interesting. After this coming weekend, no more lambs would be needed, no more blood had to be poured out. Jesus’ sacrifice would do away with so much of what went by for daily practice at the temple. After His passion, people could go back to walking with God wherever they were, talking with Him, worshipping Him. The temple could be used for teaching and worship and everyone would be welcome…in theory. But that’s not what would occur.
This ‘Triumphal Entry’ into Jerusalem was triumphal by human standards, because it held such distinctive political meaning. But for Jesus, the true triumphal walk would be the one that would occur Sunday morning when the stone rolled away.
As we GoLove people today, we need to understand just how badly they _need_ their hearts opened to the entry of Jesus. It’s not a casual conversation to bring up, but sin, death & hell are not casual topics. Grace and mercy are deep wells, and to spend time talking to people about the joy and redemption that comes from them? That will require an investment on our part and theirs. We need to keep our eyes and hearts focused on Golgotha and the empty tomb, because it is the work that Jesus did there that quite literally changed _everything_.
“When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples,
“As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”
Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.”
Matthew 26:1-5 NIV
As His Passion had begun to unfold, Jesus found Himself at the home of a man named Simon (the leper, presumably now cured) and He again directs the hearts of His disciples toward His suffering that looms heavily on the horizon of His mind. His voluntary suffering, brought on by love and justice and grace, is undeniable and He desires that those closest to a Him understand what is getting ready to take place.
This isn’t the first time a He has introduced this topic, and I fact, He has even had to correct them on their misunderstanding of His mission here on earth. When Peter heard Him speak of this earlier, he responded in a deeply human way to it, and was rebuked for acting and speaking and thinking in this way (“Get behind me, Satan!”.) Suffering was prophesied for the Messiah, Scripture confirmed that this is what must happen, but the hearts of Jesus’ disciples and the rest of Israel don’t want anything like this to even be mentioned.
When our hearts are misaligned with God’s heart, His message is going to seem abrupt or even strange to us. News of what God is up to, even if it is for our good, is going to sound disruptive and can put us out of joint.
We see this pretty clearly in the hearts and minds of Caiaphas and those conspiring against Jesus. Their hearts were so out of line with God that having all of His Word memorized didn’t help them see His Word standing before them in the flesh. They knew the prophecies, they knew what was supposed to happen, but they couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Their own agendas had long since circumvented what God desired, and their hearts are now solidly conspiring against Him.
Rationalizing one misdeed seems bad to us, but not horrible. We mess up all the time, and so one more little slip, albeit an intentional slip, doesn’t seem that terrible. But one rationalization leads to another, and soon another and before we know it we have traded the granite beneath our feet for quicksand. We find ourselves so far beyond where we would have ever thought and we see a return to where we should be as nearly impossible. And so we compromise again to compensate…
Jesus is trying to explain what must happen. We need to be ready to hear these messages and directions of God’s plan for us, to be willing to hear what He has to say. It may not always be the easiest thing to comprehend, but it is His will, and it is working for the good of those who love Him.
We will find ourselves on either side of that coin, either we accept what He has for us or we will find ourselves compromising and conspiring against Him. We cannot have it both ways.
So, as Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday approach, pray and ask God to create a willing heart in you, ready to hear, believe and act in His will and in His perfect plan. Ask Him to guard your heart against pride, and to give you a spirit of peace in whatever He desires of you.