“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” – John 15:8
Today’s Scripture Reading: Mark 11:12-19
Just yesterday, Jesus was riding into town on a young donkey colt. Today, we see something entirely different. The Jesus we see today is demanding respect. He is angry and even violent! The Jesus we saw yesterday appears to require very little, just asking for a young donkey to ride on. The Jesus we see today appears to require everything, demanding what he wants and when he wants it.
Throughout this visit to Jerusalem, Jesus has been staying in Bethany, a town just outside Jerusalem, home to his close friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. It’s now Monday morning. Jesus and his disciples are on their way back into Jerusalem. As they travel, Jesus notices a fig tree with fresh spring leaves. Since Jesus hadn’t yet had breakfast, he walks towards the tree to eat some of its fruit. He expects the tree to have fruit, since the fruit and leaves of a fig tree typically appear together. The tree had nothing but leaves. Jesus surprises his disciples, cursing the fig tree, and cursing it forever.
Why did Jesus curse the fig tree? In God’s created order, everything has a purpose and a function. Intent is behind everything that is. Apple trees make apples. Orange trees make oranges. Fig trees make figs. It’s the way it was meant to be. It’s the way everything originally worked . . . until sin entered the scene. Humanity didn’t just pull a “naughty” when it sinned; it went A.W.O.L., and affected the whole created order. The fig tree was a reminder that humanity had gone astray, and of something even more atrocious. In the Old Testament, the fig tree is a symbol for Israel.[i] A fruitless fig tree, therefore, illustrates how unproductive Israel, God’s chosen people, had been. God had selected Israel to be special. What we see next provides a sampling of how much like the barren fig tree, Israel had become.
Upon entering Jerusalem, Jesus visits the temple. In it, he discovers the financial lenders at the temple had become deceitful profiteers. They were there for foreign travelers, to exchange their foreign currency, and sell them animals for sacrifice. But by shrewd marketing, they were charging excessive rates, making a fortune off these sincere pilgrims coming for worship. The whole scene angered Jesus because it went against God’s intent. The temple was to be a house of prayer for all nations.
Whatever God does, he does with intent and expectation. When God created humankind, he had intent. When God fashioned the fig tree, he had intent. When God chose Israel, he had intent. When God instructed Israel to build the temple, he had intent. And though God’s intentions differ—depending on what it is he is creating, fashioning, or instructing—he ultimately has only one intent for everything: His Glory. From his disciples, Jesus expects the fruit of a disciple. He saved us by his love and for his glory.
- Whose glory are you living for?
- Are you a fig tree without figs? Are you producing the fruit of a disciple?
[i] Jeremiah 8:13; Hosea 9:10