Jesus curses a fig tree and clear the temple

This is written by Luke Johnson. Truthteller, banker  & husband. Happiest doing pop-psychology and speaking the love of God into people's lives.

Mark 11:12-26

Jesus curses a fig-tree and clears the temple courts
12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig-tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, 'May no one ever eat fruit from you again.' And his disciples heard him say it.

15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, 'Is it not written: "My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations"? But you have made it "a den of robbers".'

18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

19 When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.

20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig-tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, 'Rabbi, look! The fig-tree you cursed has withered!'

22 'Have faith in God,' Jesus answered. 23 'Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, "Go, throw yourself into the sea," and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.'

Reflection

Jesus enters Jerusalem perceived as a political messiah but instead of going to the palace, Jesus goes to the temple to discern Israel's spiritual state. Jesus then casts his judgement on the state of Israel spiritually (v15-17), before making some pretty startling promises about faith and prayer.

Post AD 33 it's easy to miss the question on everyone's mind: what authority does Jesus have to cast judgement on the temple in v17? Aren't these just empty words from a self-important nutter (think Kanye West) – but then we have this story of a cursed fig tree. Why is it here? Throughout the OT, one of the images used for Israel is a fig tree. So we have a second story of Jesus' judgement integrated into this passage – Jesus' judgement of FIGurative Israel. For horticulturally challenged people, the fruit of the fig tree generally appears before the leaves and blends in with the leaves until it's ripe. Therefore, when Jesus saw from a distance that the tree had leaves, He would have expected it to also have fruit on it. It didn't. Jesus was unimpressed, much like the spiritual state of Israel (and many renaissance sculptures): just a bunch of fig leaves covering up something rather underwhelming.

As if Jesus knows the question that we're all asking, he demonstrates the authority of his words to his disciples through the example of the fig tree (v14). Post AD 33 we now know Jesus had authority to judge Israel's spiritual state. But what about the statements made in v22-26? Jesus has given us his authority to move mountains – physical and spiritual, and prayer to bring it about. Do we trust Jesus' authority here too? Reflect on vs 22-25, what is holding you back?

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