Read Mark 11:12–20
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.
New International Version (NIV)
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ReflectWhat fruit shows in your life? Is it the fruit of God’s Spirit? Or the fruit of selfishness and worldliness?
It helps us get our bearings if we understand that the fruitless fig tree was an Old Testament image for faithless Israel (e.g., Jer. 8:13; Mic. 7:1). When Jesus curses the barren fig tree (14), it is a prophetic sign of what is about to happen in the Temple.
No amount of glossy leaves (13) on the tree of Israel’s religion could disguise its lack of true fruit. Worshipers changing their local currency for Temple coinage, and the poor, who could only afford doves for their sacrifice (see Lev. 14:21,22), were being ripped off. The pursuit of profit by the powerful had displaced prayer by the people (17).
Jesus’ denunciation (17) finds its context in Jeremiah 7:9–11. Jesus’ Temple protest alerts the people of God that how they treat one another—and especially how they treat “outsiders” from “the nations” (17)—matters to God!
The religious leaders in the Temple were organizing a good religious show, but the heart of true love for God and neighbor was missing. What lessons might this carry for our churches today?
Are there outsiders you could welcome in your church? Or strugglers that you could encourage? What can you do to help them?