Fruitless Faith

Posted: May 31, 2014 in Mark

Mark 11:12-19, “Fruitless Faith”

Introduction:
Does Jesus ever lose His cool?  Does He ever throw a temper-tantrum?  To listen to some people talk about this particular event in Jesus’ life, we might come away with that conclusion.  And at first glance, that might indeed seem to be the case.  First Jesus gets mad at a fig tree for not bearing fruit when it wasn’t the season for it, and then He starts throwing people out of the temple.  Is this just an account of a “bad day” in the life of Jesus?  Did He have a melt-down and throw a Divine temper tantrum?

What may seem to be a random outburst of anger (or worse) from Jesus is anything but.  There is purpose in His actions, both with the fig tree and in the temple.  Jesus is perfectly in control of Himself and His surroundings.  What we’re going to find is that the fig tree was representative of the nation of Israel.  Each was fruitless when it ought to have been fruitful.  Israel’s case was that it was fruitless in its faith.  That was something to be judged by the King of Israel, who had come.

There had been many examples of faith (both good and bad) on Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem.  There was the man with the demon-possessed son who waited for Jesus to come down from the mount of transfiguration.  He had brought his boy to Jesus’ disciples, who proved to lack the persistency in faith necessary for what needed to be done.  The father himself lacked faith, until he appealed to Jesus, crying out to Him, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief!”

There had also been blind Bartimaeus in Jericho (on the way into Jerusalem).  Although the people around him tried to keep him quiet, Bartimaeus kept crying out in faith for Jesus to heal him.  The blind beggar that the persistent faith that the others had earlier lacked, and as he humbly submitted himself to Jesus as the Son of David (Christ the King), he received the healing he desperately desired.

Now Jesus has come to Jerusalem.  This is the city of faith, right?  This is the place where God’s name was to be worshipped & praised.  This is the city of the holy temple of God.  If there is any place that faith ought to bear fruit, it ought to have been among God’s people in His temple.  When Jesus arrived, He didn’t find fruit; He found barren corruption.  And He would deal with it in the way that only the King of Israel could.

Mark 11:12–19
12 Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry.

  1. With this brief statement, Mark sets up the context.  Remember all that had happened on the previous day: Jesus had arrived in Bethany and sent two of the disciples to Bethphage to go retrieve a young donkey.  (And He gave very specific instructions for them to follow…) This had been a direct fulfillment of prophecy (Zech 9:9).  Jesus was being presented as the rightful King of Israel. And that’s what happened. People accompanied Jesus by the multitudes, proclaiming His praises, and publicly acknowledged Him to BE the rightful King of Israel, quoting Psalm 118 “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”  Waving their palm branches in the air, throwing their clothes on the ground for Jesus’ donkey to walk upon, the people seemed to expect an uprising of some sort upon entering Jerusalem, but all Jesus did was to inspect the temple & then leave.  He had His own agenda, which was vastly different than the agenda of the people.
  2. With all this in mind, now what?  Jesus has seen the corruption in the temple with His own eyes.  He has a plan on dealing with it, and He was about to get started.  Going out the next day (apparently getting started early in the morning – Mt 21:18), Jesus “was hungry.”  Like most of us, He got up & He was ready for breakfast, so He went to grab something on His way into town.
    1. This tells us something about Jesus, before we even get started.  Jesus got hungry, just like everyone else gets hungry.  It’s a simple mention (almost an afterthought to Mark), but it serves to teach us about Jesus’ humanity.  We rightly speak of Jesus as the Son of God, and how Jesus as all the attributes of God the Father – but we also need to remember that Jesus is a Man.  He is unique in the Universe for many reasons, one of them being that Jesus has two inseparable natures: human and divine.  Jesus is 100% God, and 100% Man.  One does not cancel out the other at any time.  As God the Son, Jesus has always existed (as God, Jesus is without beginning or end), and when Jesus became incarnate, He took on humanity to the fullest extent – including our physical natures.  He became physically just as human as anyone else.  There was an ancient heresy called Docetism that taught that although Jesus appeared to be human, He wasn’t actually a Man.  They believed that the flesh is so bad that Jesus could not have actually become flesh, to the point that although Jesus looked like He had hands & feet, He never left footprints when He walked, etc.  That’s not what the Bible teaches us in the slightest.  The apostles knew well that Jesus was physically in their midst, just like any other man.  To be sure, Jesus is vastly more than just a man, but He is a man, nonetheless.
    2. There is incredible humility in the incarnation of Jesus that we dare not forget!  The Son of God got hungry.  Think about that for a moment.  Almighty God does not get hungry.  He does not need food to sustain Him.  He even said as much in the Psalms.  “If I was hungry, I would not tell you” (Ps 50:12) – the idea being that animal sacrifice in worship was not done for God to eat, but for the people to atone for sin in order that they might worship God.  In His glory and spirit, God does not have any physical limitation whatsoever.  Yet in His incarnation, Jesus willingly took on the physical limitations of mankind.  Jesus DID get hungry.  He got tired.  He had to go to the bathroom, and do all of the mundane, weak things that every human does.  The Son of God was willing to debase Himself to the fullest extent, even becoming a Man, out of love for us & obedience to His Heavenly Father.  There was no other way for God to serve as an acceptable sacrifice for mankind, apart from becoming a Man Himself…and that is exactly what Jesus did.

13 And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.

  1. Jesus stopped for breakfast at a fig tree, but there was a problem: no figs.  There’s quite a bit of unstated irony here in the location.  Remember that Jesus had come out from Bethany on His way into Jerusalem, and we can easily assume that Jesus took the same route into the city as He did the previous day, which took Him through Bethphage.  “Bethphage” roughly translates into “house of unripe/young figs.”  No doubt it was the location of many fig trees, and this particular tree was so unripe that the fruit didn’t even exist!
  2. That the tree didn’t have fruit wasn’t unusual in in that it wasn’t the season for figs.  Being that Jesus was at Jerusalem for the Passover (mid-spring), fig season was still several weeks away (early summer).  No fig tree in the area would have had fruit.  So what was the problem here?  The tree had leaves, so it seemed to have blossomed early, and it looked as if it should have had fruit.  Yet despite its leaf, the tree was barren.  It gave the impression that something should have been there, but upon closer inspection, nothing was found.

14 In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” And His disciples heard it.

  1. Jesus cursed the tree, confirming its barrenness and ensuring that it would stay that way forever (apparently it has an immediate effect, which the disciples will discover the next day).  But the obvious question comes up: why?  Why curse the tree?  It seems so out of character for Jesus.  It sounds less like something out of the Bible, and more like an event out of the fake false gospels produced by the Gnostics.  (The so-called “Infancy Gospel of Thomas” shows a boy-Jesus cursing playmate children for bumping him too hard, and more.  It’s a complete forgery done in Thomas’ name, and has no basis in actual history whatsoever.)  This particular event in Mark (and Matthew) is so seemingly out of character for Jesus that many liberal scholars have attempted to argue that this just doesn’t belong – as if a scribe added the account into the text & it shouldn’t be there in the first place.  Yet there’s no doubt that this is a legitimate part of our New Testaments.  The manuscript evidence is far too strong to cast doubt on it – and it is highly unlikely that a scribal addition would be found in both Matthew and Mark.
  2. So what IS going on here?  Did Jesus throw a temper tantrum?  Did He blow His top in anger?  No.  How can we be sure?  There are two main reasons:
    1. Jesus always did the things that pleased His Father. (Jn 8:29)  Having a hissy fit a couple of miles outside of Jerusalem is not something that would please God.  Everything Jesus did had a purpose – everything Jesus taught, He taught for a reason.  Jesus was perfectly in control of everything that He did, and it all served to fulfill the plan of God.
    2. God does have a righteous anger, but He never flies off the handle.  The theological term for this is to say that God is impassable.  That is, He is without “passions.”  Obviously, God has emotions (He rejoices, grieves, is angry, etc.), but His emotions do not have Him.  His emotions are always perfectly under control.  When God shows His anger, He does so purposefully & righteously (which is far different than what so often happens with us!).
  3. All of this seems to show that Jesus cursed the fig tree intentionally.  Note that “His disciples heard” His words.  Jesus did what He did specifically in front of His disciples, knowing that they were watching and listening.  He wanted them to see & know this.  (Nothing is in our Bibles by accident.  The Holy Spirit has a reason for every word that He inspired to be written!)  Jesus had a lesson that He was teaching His disciples.  He had taught many parables verbally; this seems to have been a parable that was acted out in real-time.
  4. Remember that the whole day ahead of them had purpose.  Jesus had inspected the temple on the previous day, and He was headed back into town to take care of important business.  The temple needed to be cleansed and purified.  God’s people had become fruitless, just like this tree.  The role that the Jews were supposed to play had become hopelessly corrupt.  Now the Messiah King had come and He would bring His judgment. … All of that is what was being acted out in full view of the disciples.  Jesus was preparing them for the events of the day.  The Messiah expected His people to be fruitful in their worship, and they had become barren instead (which would be proven in a few days when the people rejected the Messiah and sent Him to the cross).  This is the declaration of their judgment.
    1. BTW – why a fig tree?  In the Old Testament, fig trees were often used as a symbol of the nation of Israel – often in terms of judgment.  Ps 105:33 – the vines & fig tree would be struck.  Jer 5:17 – the vines & fig tree would be eaten.  Hos 2:12 – God would destroy the vines & fig trees, etc.  The symbolism would not have been lost on the apostles when they witnessed Jesus doing this.
  5. Question: If King Jesus cursed the nation (via the fig tree), does that mean that God is done with Israel?  Has the nation been forever cursed & cast aside to be replaced by the Church?  No.  Certainly that particular generation of Jews was cursed (as seen in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70AD).  And for the next phase in history, the plan of God shifted from Israel to the Church…right now, any who come to faith in Jesus (Jew or Gentile) are brought into one body: the Church.  But God still has a plan for Israel.  There are many promises of a restored kingdom of Israel that are still outstanding, and God will always ensure that every word of His is fulfilled.  Not a single promise of God will ever be in vain.  One day, all Israel will come to faith, and they will be saved (Rom 11:26) – all of it to the praise and glory of God.
  6. That’s all the preview.  Now comes the implementation.  See vs. 15…

15 So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 16 And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple.

  1. Quite the event!  There is no whip of cords here; that is in John’s account of the temple cleansing, which is a different event entirely.  The synoptics (Mt, Mk, Lk) all record the temple cleansing that happened just days prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, but John records a much earlier cleansing that happened at virtually the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, right after He turned water into wine (Jn 2:13-22).  Why would Jesus do the same event twice?  Obviously because it was necessary!  Jesus did spend time in Jerusalem through His ministry, but that was not where the bulk of His time was spent.  Any reforms that He had brought apparently did not last long.  The people (and especially the priests) went back to “business as usual” once Jesus left.  If we think about God’s desire for purity in worship, it only makes sense that Jesus would bookend His ministry with cleansing the temple.  There would have been no greater way to highlight the need for purity of heart to a Jew than this kind of striking visual.
  2. In this case, Mark tells us how bad the corruption had become.  As Jesus entered the temple complex, He would immediately been brought into the court of the Gentiles.  This was the outermost area of the temple complex, named for the Gentiles precisely because it was the only place that Gentiles were allowed to gather on the grounds.  If a Gentile had come to worship the only true God (and there were many who did – as demonstrated by the Ethiopian eunuch of Acts 8 & the Roman centurion Cornelius of Acts 10), this is where he/she had the opportunity to do it.  Yet what did Jesus find when He arrived?  A typical Middle-eastern bazaar.  A flea-market, with the supposed guise of religion attached to it.  This is what Jesus had witnessed the previous day, and this is what He had come to address.
    1. There were people “who bought and sold.”  Although we’re not told specifically what they sold, there’s no doubt that vendors sold the livestock and other items to be used in the temple sacrifices.  There may have been other items for sale in addition to that, but the sacrificial items would have been the minimum of what was sold.  Why would the animals be sold at all?  The law required that people bring their own sacrifices to the Lord, and specified that the animals they brought be spotless & without blemish.  Who would judge that the animal brought to be sacrificed was sufficient to be offered?  Those who served at the temple.  What if those who served at the temple got a cut off of anything that was sold at the temple?  We can easily imagine the scenario: a man comes dozens of miles on foot with his animal to sacrifice, ready to worship the Lord, only to find that his animals aren’t “good enough.”  Now he’d have to come up with the cash to purchase the “approved” animals (which weren’t any better than the ones he had brought) before he’d be allowed to come in and worship the Lord through sacrifice.  As word gets around, soon no one would be bringing in any animals of their own – they would all be purchasing the temple animals.  With as many sacrifices that took place every day in the temple, there would have been animal vendors everywhere you looked.
    2. There were “money changers.”  If you’ve ever traveled overseas, you know the need to exchange money.  American dollars need to be changed out for whatever the local currency might be.  Invariably there is a fee that is charged for the exchange, and it helps to check around to see who might have the best rates.  Although the Jews were not entering into a different country to worship God at the temple, they were entering an area that used a different currency.  Although the Hebrew kingdom shekel had long since passed, there was an equivalent temple currency that had risen in its place.  The Roman imperial coin was no good there (or other Gentile currency), ostensibly for the reason that the coins had graven images on them or other references to false gods.  Those coins needed to be exchanged for what was accepted as use within the temple: the temple money.  So put this together with the previous use of the animal vendors & now we really start to see the issue.  Not only would someone travel long distances to the temple, and find that they were forced to purchase a new animal from the temple – they couldn’t even use the money that they had brought with them to do it!  They had to exchange their money for the temple money just be able to purchase the temple-approved sacrifice.
    3. There were “those who sold doves.”  This is mentioned by both Matthew & Mark specifically, apart from the others who bought & sold, probably because it goes to highlight the scandal.  The only people who used doves in sacrificial worship were those who were too poor to bring any other kind of offering.  Priests and kings were expected to bring cattle – other people were told to bring sheep of various kinds – but the poor could not afford any of that.  God graciously did not leave them out; He made it possible for anyone in Israel to come to Him in worship (the size of our bank accounts do not impress God, nor declare our worth to Him at all).  The poor would bring a dove, and that was sufficient for them.  But the problem is all of what had already been mentioned.  Not only were the priests supervising the cheating of the people overall; they even took advantage of the extremely poor.  God repeatedly declares in the OT how He Himself will rise up in defense of the poor when they are oppressed, and they were being oppressed in His own house of worship!
      1. Keep in mind that none of these vendors & money-changers would have been there without the express permission of the priests.  They had virtually absolute authority over everything that took place within the temple grounds. No doubt they received a portion of the profits that took place, and they were financially invested in all of the sales below.  In their greed, they were guilty of putting up all kinds of roadblocks in the way of people coming to worship God.  The priests were the ones who were supposed to encourage people to worship God rightly, and yet they were the ones who corrupted worship, and made it virtually impossible to do so.
      2. Note that as Jesus drives out all these vendors, Jesus is posing a direct challenge to the priests.  He is showing His authority as the Messiah King, and all the “good” kings of Israel made efforts to reform worship in the kingdom.  Jesus is no different.  This is something the priests pick up on the next day when they ask Jesus what authority He has to do this. 
    4. There were those who would “carry wares through the temple.”  Apparently, people were using the Gentile courtyard of the temple as a shortcut in their daily travels.  The temple took up a great deal of space in Jerusalem, and although there were gates through the walls that partitioned the city, many people found it easier to use the temple as a pass-through to get to where they were going.  The problem here isn’t so much corruption, as it is callousness.  Granted, the Gentile court was a place for all people to be able to gather freely & no sacrifice would take place there – but it was still to be a place of worship and prayer.  There was no other place that a Gentile could go to worship the true God, so that is where they had the opportunity to do it.  Yet there was nothing but distraction.  It was treated as a local mall, rather than a place of worship and quiet reverence and prayer.
  3. So what does Jesus do in response to all of this corruption and callousness?  He up-ends it all.  He drives out the vendors – He overturns the tables – He turns over chairs.  Most of us might imagine us doing whatever we could to get people into the temple; Jesus is doing all sorts of things to throw people out of the temple!  And make no mistake: these people needed to be thrown out!  We rightly think of Jesus as meek & mild, because that is how the Bible describes Him.  But that is not Jesus’ only emotion.  Jesus can also be angry & demonstrate the wrath of God when necessary.  (If we think He showed His anger in the temple, just read the account of Jesus’ 2nd coming in Revelation!)  Jesus’ reaction here in the temple was absolutely the right response, planned out in advance from the previous day.  The temple had become filled with the filth and corruption of the world, and it needed to be cleaned out.  Jesus took the action necessary to do it.
  4. Remember the problem with the fig tree: it was fruitless.  What appeared to have fruit ended up having none.  That was the case here.  Outwardly, the temple appeared to be a place of worship, but it was fruitless.  It was corrupt & casually callous.  Fruitful worship is pure.  Fruitful worship is sincere.  This is the kind of worship that God desires from us – this is the only kind of worship that God desires.  Speaking to the Samaritan woman the well… John 4:23–24, "(23) But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. (24) God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." []  That is fruitful worship!
    1. There may be churches that need to be cleaned out by Jesus, just as He cleansed the temple.  There might be individual hearts that need to be cleansed – and Jesus can do that, too.  Perhaps corruption from the world around us has crept into your heart, and your worship is no longer pure.  Perhaps you made a commitment to Jesus at one point, but now you no longer spend any time in prayer – you don’t have any real respect for His name – your attention has been distracted by too many other pursuits.  You might say a few words of prayer occasionally before meal time & do a few other things that outwardly look like things that “good Christians” do – but that’s the extent of it.  That’s fruitless worship.  If we belong to Jesus, then our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit.  What you need is a temple cleansing, just as Jesus did earlier.  Ask Him to give you a clean heart, and be assured, He will do it.

17 Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ”

  1. Jesus didn’t do any of His actions in a vacuum.  He told the people exactly what He was doing and why He was doing it.  They had perverted the temple from its intended use, and the OT Scriptures detailed it all perfectly.
  2. Jesus actually combines two OT quotations from two prophets.  The first, from the book of Isaiah, comes in a section during which God speaks of a time that the Gentiles will come and worship Him.  Isaiah 56:6–7, "(6) Also the sons of the foreigner Who join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, And to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants— Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, And holds fast My covenant— (7) Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations." []  Although the promises and covenant of God was specifically given to the nation of Israel, God had plainly told Abraham that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him (via the Messiah).  This is what God emphasizes to Isaiah.  The Gentiles may have been a part of a different nation, but they did not need to be cut off from worshipping God.  They were freely invited to come and to worship.  If they feared the Lord, and submitted themselves to His word, then they could be sure that God would hear their prayers.  All the world was invited to come and worship God – and thus all of them could come to the temple, God’s “house of prayer for all nations.”  That is what it was always supposed to be.  God was reaching out to all peoples everywhere, and He had given them an opportunity to respond in worship.  (And it was God’s priests who had gotten in the way of this, both for the Jew AND Gentile!)
    1. Although sometimes we use the terminology, the church building is not the house of God.  That could be spoken of the temple, but even then the phrase was just illustrating something bigger.  As Solomon prayed when he first built the temple, Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You.  How much less this temple that I have built?” (1 Kings 8:27)  God does not dwell in any structure made by human hands – He is far beyond that.  This is part of the wonder and mystery of our salvation.  The Almighty Infinite God who cannot be contained by the universe itself chooses to dwell among us – even within us, as our bodies become the temple of the Holy Spirit. Amazing, glorious grace!
    2. So what happens when the temple of God becomes corrupted?  What happens when our hearts no longer can be called “houses of prayer”?  What happens when the church overall loses its emphasis on worship and prayer?  That’s when it needs a cleansing from the Lord God!  It may hurt, but it’s necessary.  God’s temple is far too important for Him to allow it to fall into corruption.  He will act as He needs to in order to cleanse hearts and churches.  And when churches fail to reform (as sometimes some do), then God allows them to die…and He’s right to do so.  Christian history is littered with the remnants of churches that had once been mightily used by the Lord, but eventually allowed corruption to come in, and refused to do anything about it.  Now those churches are a shell of what they once were, if they still exist at all.
    3. That all said about the true house/temple of God, the location where God’s church gathers indeed ought to be a place of reverence and prayer.  Yes, a building is a building & it can be used for all kinds of purposes.  We can have fun in a building, transform it from time to time into a carnival or concert hall, etc., but its primary function is one of worship and prayer.  It is to be a place where God’s name is reverenced and lifted up (no matter what activity is being held).  When it’s not, and God’s name is just casually thrown around to try to justify anything that goes on, there is a huge problem.
  3. Yet what had happened?  The temple was corrupted away from being this house of prayer, and instead had become something else: “a den of thieves/robbers.”  The quote here is originally from Jeremiah.  God had told the prophet to go stand in the gate of the temple, and to proclaim the word of the Lord to the people.  They had trusted in false prophets who glossed over all of the sins of the nation, and said that the people would always be protected by God.  In truth, God had guaranteed the coming invasion of the Babylonians as a judgment upon the sin of the people.  God still gave the people an opportunity to repent, but they needed to know that He was keenly aware of their sin, and He was not going to ignore it.  Jeremiah 7:8–11, "(8) “Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. (9) Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, (10) and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations’? (11) Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” says the LORD." []  Like the priests of Jesus’ day, the ancient Jews had engaged in all kinds of sin, and then tried to come into the temple to put a veneer of religion upon everything they did – thinking that as long as they came into God’s temple, God would be fine with them.  They had lost their reverence of God & neglected to walk in purity.  God was not fooled.  The people who had gathered in the temple had not gathered to worship; it was no different than a gathering of thieves who had come to conspire and plan their next crime.
    1. This was Jesus’ condemnation of the priests & of those who bought & sold in the temple.  They had turned what was supposed to be pure into something that was purely sin.  They took the things of God and made them into the opposite of what God had intended all along.  Sacrifices of worship had become stained with the sin of greed and corruption.  And just as Jesus had condemned the fig tree for its fruitlessness, He condemned the temple priests for corrupted fruitlessness.

18 And the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His teaching.

  1. It’s no wonder that the “scribes and chief priests” wanted to “destroy” Jesus…after all, Jesus had directly challenged their authority and called them out as corrupt.  Things were just getting worse and worse by the day for them.  First, Jesus had come into the city with the acclamation of the crowds, calling out His name as the Messiah, the Son of David.  Now He comes back the next day, proclaiming the condemnation of God upon them & challenging their authority (not to mention ruining an entire day’s profit).  They needed to find some way to get rid of Him – but they were afraid to do it.  The “people were astonished at His teaching” – they were listening closely to the things that Jesus said & they were amazed by Him.  Like the multitudes in Galilee, they were astonished by the One who could teach with such power and authority.  The scribes and priests wanted to find a way to take Jesus out, but do so in a way that would avoid a riot.  They’ll find their avenue in the treachery of Judas Iscariot – but not before Jesus causes them much more heartburn over the next few days.

19 When evening had come, He went out of the city.

  1. This day ends just like the previous one.  Jesus had come into the city, caused an uproar, and then left on His own accord.  The priests may have begun plotting His death, but Jesus did not fear the priests, nor was He in any danger from them.  They did not have any power over Jesus that God the Father did not allow, and Jesus would freely do every single thing that He had come to do.  The only time Jesus would be arrested was when He allowed Himself to be arrested.  Again, Jesus demonstrates that He is fully in control at all times.

Conclusion:
Oh that God would guard us from fruitless faith!  That was the problem with the nation of Israel, which is what the fig tree pointed to.  Jesus was not mad with a tree; He wasn’t throwing a temper tantrum over a lack of breakfast.  He was rightly angry with a nation (and specifically a priesthood) that had corrupted the worship of God, and had grown callously indifferent to the privilege it was to be invited to worship Him at all.  They had become stumbling blocks to Jews and Gentiles alike in worship, and their King had come to address it.  He called it out for what it was, and cleansed the temple of God.

The temple of the 1st century is not the only temple of God that needs cleaning.  Our own hearts might likewise need a similar type of purifying from the Lord Jesus.  Has your worship of God grown cold & calloused?  Is your heart filled more with the things of the world than the things of God?  If you could lay your heart open & look at the contents, would it appear to be more of a marketplace than a house of prayer?  When we try to live like the world, but put a gloss of religion over the top, that’s a fruitless faith.  When we lack any reverence for the Lord God, but still call ourselves “Christian,” that’s a fruitless faith.  When we become stumbling blocks to others coming to worship, that’s a fruitless faith.  That’s something that needs to be dealt with by the Lord – that’s something that requires His cleansing.

The good news is that Jesus WILL cleanse us!  Our own cleansing need not be as harsh as what the people in Jerusalem witnessed that day.  God will firmly discipline us if need be, but to those who come to Him humbly in faith, God responds in gentleness and love.  The Bible promises that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn 1:9).  The Bible calls the Church the bride of Christ, and one of the things that Jesus does for His bride is to sanctify and cleanse her by the washing of water by the word (Eph 5:26).  Jesus wants us to be pure & fruitful – and He is fully capable to make us so.

The question for us is if we’re willing to submit ourselves into His hand.  For some of us, today might be the day where we need to declare we’re going to make a new start.  You know that you’ve placed your faith in Jesus – you’ve asked for Him to forgive you your sins – but at some point you started running in a different direction & all kinds of corruption started creeping in.  Today, cleansing can take place in the house of God: your heart.  Renew your commitment to the Lord Jesus today.

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