The SERVANT-KING has made His Triumphal entry to His city and as the week progresses we see Him teaching in the Temple.
THE SERVANT-JUDGE : The condemnation of the fig tree and the cleansing of the Temple symbolize the sad state of the spiritual condition of the nation of Israel. Not only were they blinded to the fact that their Messiah was among them, their worship of God was repulsive: God could find no appreciation in their sacrifices any longer.
Cursing the Fig Tree : The fruit of the fig tree is green and concealed among the leaves until near the time of ripening. If the promise of fruit given from a distance by the leaves is not fulfilled at close proximity, the tree is a hypocrite. Seeing leaves on the tree Jesus expected fruit, and cursing the fig tree was not the result of a failure of the tree itself, but a lesson to His disciples of the failure in the spiritual life of the nation. The nation of Israel, equated to the fig tree by O.T. prophets , and like the fig tree in this account, Israel was “nothing but leaves” and it should be noted here that the tree dried up “from the roots” : three years before this John the Baptist had put the axe to the roots of the tree but the religious leaders refused to heed the warning. “Whenever an individual or a group ‘dries-up’ spiritually, it is usually from the roots”. People will admire the abundance of leaves, but there is no fruit to satisfy or enjoy. As God expected fruit from His people the Jews , so Jesus expects fruit from His disciples today ; therefore we must carefully cultivate our spiritual roots and not be content to produce only leaves.
Cleansing the Temple : This was the second occasion that Jesus had to “cleanse” the Temple area . It was easy for the priests and other religious leaders to rationalize this arrangement since it was a convenience for travellers not to have to bring their own sacrifices, purchasing such on arrival in the city. The priests and the religious leaders made a profit from this arrangement and the money changers contributed to the profits controlling the currency used for the purchases of the sacrifices. This religious market was set up in the Court of the Gentiles where the Jews should have been doing their witnessing to the Gentiles. Any Gentile person visiting the Temple could have been perturbed by what was being done. This should have been a place of prayer but it had been turned into “a den of thieves”, a contention that God had with His people for many years, speaking through His prophets . What is the lesson to us today? Do we desecrate the “Lords Temple” . How do we conduct ourselves in “the Lord’s House”, do our visitors enjoy the presence of the Lord or are they confused and disturbed by what they see and hear? We, like the priests and religious leaders in Jesus’ day, are very careful not to bring “idols of wood and stone” (into the Temple) or the Lord’s House, but what about those “other idols” that causes our worship and praise to be unacceptable to God? . Let us not live the way we please and then come into God’s House in an attempt to “cover up” our sin and hypocrisy. Let us examine our various ministries and ensure that we are not making “merchandise of the Gospel”.