Lent Reflections @ CEC (3/30/20)
A rule I have had for years is: to treat the Lord Jesus Christ as a personal friend. His is not a creed, a mere doctrine, but it is He Himself we have. Dwight L. Moody
SCRIPTURE & DEVOTION: Mark 11:12-25
Have faith in God,”Jesus answered. “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. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
This passage of scripture has been a bit of a mystery to me. Many years ago I had a conversation with someone pretty hostile to the gospel, and he brought up this passage, asking: What did the fig tree ever do to Jesus? I was pretty young in my understanding, and had no idea how to answer this question. I would even say that this interaction really influenced my desire to share the gospel EVER with anyone who might have questions I couldn't answer. Yet there is so much more than meets the eye in this passage - and I'm grateful for the writing of NT Wright that has helped me understand it so much more.
The fig tree is a picture of Israel. Jesus came expecting to find fruit on the tree, just like Jesus came expecting to find the fruit of repentance in Israel. What he found on the fig tree and in Israel was the same. No fruit. The place that was supposed to be the center of where God and people meet had become this place of coercion, and "lording it over" others.
NT Wright says: He (Mark) frames Jesus’ action in the Temple (verses 15–18) within the double story of the fig tree. Jesus comes hoping for fruit, but finds none; so he puts a curse on the fig tree (verses 13–14). Then, the day after the Temple incident, there is the tree: withered from its roots (verses 20–21). The point could hardly be clearer. Jesus has come to Jerusalem, has come to the Temple, the holiest point in the Jewish world, looking for the fruit of repentance, of the wisdom, justice, holiness and peace that should be the marks of God’s people. He has found none. His action in the Temple must be seen – certainly this is how Mark and the other gospel writers see it – as an acted parable of God’s judgment. No one will eat fruit from this tree again.
Jesus goes into the temple and clears the place out. I wonder if those who had been following Him were surprised and maybe even a little pleased. Perhaps Jesus might be the kind of Messiah they were expecting after all. He was showing some passion, some strength against some authority. But I'm not sure it was the authority they were expecting. Jesus had different expectations for those who were supposed to be the caretakers of leading the people into relationship with God, and they failed Him miserably. They had marred the picture because "all the nations were supposed to look to Jerusalem and see it as a beacon of hope, of the presence of the creator God." (NT Wright) One more lesson. This idea that you can have enough faith to move a mountain has always baffled me. What is Jesus saying? What would anyone want to move a mountain anyway?
The temple is UP - on a mountain. The temple represents a system. Jesus is telling them to have faith that He will overthrow that system, the system controlled by the chief priests and Pharisees. He is about to usher in a new way.
Hebrews 7:19 says ... (for the law made nothing perfect),and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.
This is IT! This is the hope we trust in, the hope by which we draw near to God. Jerusalem WAS the place where people could draw near to God. We have a better way. His name is Jesus, and He is a clear picture, unmarred by sin and failure. What amazing, wonderful news for us!
Jesus, thank You for being Hope itself. We need Hope. We need You. We ask that You would continue Your transforming work in our lives every single day.