Sunday, April 27th – Mark 11:12-24

Well…we seemed to have pretty good participation last week with our approach to studying the Gospel of Mark.  No reason to quit doing this now!  It is odd to me that there is such a distinct difference between the first and second service we have at Eastgate.  While the first service seems very animated and willing to interact…second service is so much more reserved.  Why do you suppose that is?

Anyway…this Sunday we’ll be reading Mark 11:12-24.  Again, take some time to read it if you can, and in several different translations. 

In our story, Jesus has entered Jerusalem to a certain amount of fanfare, but left the city that evening and stayed in Bethany.  What we’ll read about are the next day’s events.

Jesus will do two curious things.  First, He passes a fig tree when He’s hungry, but is disappointed to find only foliage, and no fruit.  So He curses the fig tree.  Doesn’t that seem harsh?  The text tells us that its not fig season, yet Jesus curses it because it doesn’t have fruit on it.  Maybe the fake Christians with the signs have it wrong by one vowel…maybe it’s supposed to be “God Hates Figs”?

According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, Fig trees of that region have an early fruit and a later fruit.  The early fruit was considered a delicacy, and it must have been the leaves that were showing on the tree gave a false indication that the early fruit would be there.  If you read the article I linked to, you’ll notice an ominous portent was often associated with the destruciton of a fig tree in Jewish tradition.

When Jesus goes to the temple, his actions there start to shed some light on what this cursing of the fig tree was all about.  What do you think the cursing of the fig tree has in connection with the money changers in the temple?

When we consider the implications of the barren fig tree, we have to start looking to ourselves, and wonder: how important is outward appearance to me?   In this story, the leaves were on display for all to see, but what was being sought out was fruit.  Who was seeking it?  What words were used to describe why there was a search for fruit?  Do those details speak anything to us?

God’s values are on display in these verses.  What does NOT appear to be important to Him?  What DOES?

Anyway…that’s some stuff to chew on…what other observations can be made?

10 comments

  1. The fig tree passage has always been a mystery to me — just too hard to understand, but here are a few thoughts. I believe God wants us to learn that what is inside is more important than what shows on the outside.

    (1) The passage says Jesus was hungry and went looking for fruit. Most of us desire to be hungry for God, but it creates a different picture in my mind thinking that Jesus is hungrily looking for me — or for fruit in my life.

    (2) In the previous passage Jesus came riding in on a colt with people shouting “Hosanna,” but as Rob pointed out on Sunday, by the time Jesus went into the temple, he was alone. Where were the people then? Was their inward expression of “Hosanna” the same as their outward expression?

    (3) Jesus went to the temple. Outwadly the temple appeared to be fruitful, because it was supposed to be a house of prayer, but inwardly there was corruption.

    (4) The prayer of faith to remove mountains…..that is a hard one. Occasionally I feel that strong in my prayers, but most of the time, I feel I am just bumbling along. Jesus says, “Have faith in God.” Sometimes that is easier said than done.

  2. Jesus says, ” Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’?[a] But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’”[b]. According to Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11, my understanding is that Jesus is making reference to Him indwelling us and we are now His temple. If Jesus is indwelling us by The Holy Spirit, how can we not want to offer “true and pleasing” sacrifices? He knows the difference in “the leaves” of the fig tree (us) the “sweet fruit”.

  3. I’m not sure what it symbolized in the Bible, but I know that I can relate to throwing tables when I’m hungry and I’m not being fed. [… In a figurative, literal sense.]

    -Ryan

  4. Patti- you said “it creates a different picture in my mind thinking that Jesus is hungrily looking for me”…and that TOTALLY hit me as well. It’s an amazing picture…and a radical concept concerning our relationship with Jesus. Sometimes I can slip into a mode of thinking that sets Jesus apart from me…as though his investigation for fruit is purely the work of an interested botanist. But HUNGER…that paints an entirely different motif. There is passion and craving and intimacy implied in hunger.

    Golda-right ON! a good show of leaves doesn’t seem to be anywhere on the radar concerning God’s agenda.

    Ryan- you so funny…you make me go “ha” and “ha ha”!

  5. The picture of Jesus flipping the exchange tables and the dove sellers booths has always fascinated me. I have always thought that Jesus was in some way protecting the reputation of his dad; the whole “my father’s house will be a house of prayer…”. I still think that is an element. But I am beginning to think it goes further, deeper somehow.

    Maybe he was looking at what people were having to do to be able to worship? What if that was what really set Jesus off? You where supposed to bring your own offering, but the scribes and the priests saw a way to make some money for themselves, and make it really easy for you.

    Instead of being able to just give money, you have to exchange your $$ for Temple Bucks. Don’t worry about bringing your own dove, buy only the best from Jacob and Isaac’s Dovery And Bagel Emporium, second stall from the left. I think Jesus was angry because his father had set up a simple way for people to worship and it had become a business enterprise.

    Jesus wants us to come to him, with what we have — not trying to fake our way through by purchasing only the best money can buy. It’s not about the money, it’s not even really about the offering. It’s about us, loving God, worshiping with the best we have. Be it a widows mite, or a couple of mullet and loaf of Wonder Bread.

  6. Ryan-I can see that there was an actual point you were making…sorry for dismissing it as humor. You’re right…God’s hunger pangs were on display in the temple.

    John-I DO think that Jesus was directly confronting the rank commercialism that had supplanted the simplistic worship God has called for…but…we don’t want to make the mistake of blaming the condition of the temple on the merchants ALONE…because as you look at the passage, who did Jesus drive out of there?

  7. Rob–
    Good point. I think what I really meant was (famous last words) I see Jesus reacting in protection mode, like a mom (or Shepherd). He saw what those claiming to be shepherds (the scribes and Pharisees) had done by perverting the worship process and as the Good Shepherd felt compelled to protect the sheep.

    The challenge with trying to figure out Jesus is that there is never just one reason he did something. Being God, well, he saw us discussing this 2000 years latter. He saw the impact it would make on the merchants. He understood the statement he was making to the religious elite. He understood the hope his actions would bring to those weighed down by hundreds of years of tradition. He understood it all. Man, that’s a really heavy thought. Cool, but heavy.

  8. Hey, I just had an amazing thought I wanted to share…

    I think the reason Jesus cleared the temple is that it was time to put a stop to all of the “unreal religious” worship and bring in the “real unreligious” worship.

    Jesus totally disrupted the way the Jews (religious) had always done things. This meant that Jesus was including the Gentiles (unreligious) to be in His Kingdom. Can you imagine the fear and jealousy this caused? The Jews thought they were the “chosen few”.

    I am so grateful I was included!

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