By: Ellen Nimmo
It was a Tuesday. It was Passover week and Jesus was walking with his disciples towards the temple in Jerusalem.
Jesus was hungry.
In the distance he saw a fig tree, full of lush green leaves. Moved by his hunger, Jesus stopped to inspect it for the coming fruit.
He found the tree empty, no figs. In fact, there were no signs of fruit to come, no buds, no coming harvest, zip, nada, none. Only big showy leaves. The tree would not be producing any fruit.
Jesus cursed the fig tree and walked on.
Upon his arrival at the temple, Jesus enters and sees an area meant for people of all nations, the out-of-towners so to speak. The area was crowded with money-changers and merchandisers. They were set up, ready to prey on the foreigner and keep those outside the faith from entering the sanctuary.
Jesus overturned the tables and drove them out.
These scenes always confused me. Especially the fig tree story. Up until this point, Jesus’s ministry and miracles had been mostly about healing and feeding; teaching anyone that wanted to learn about the Kingdom of God using parables and, at times, speaking plainly – prophesying about the events to come, namely his approaching death and resurrection.
But in these scenes, just a few days before he would be arrested and crucified, Jesus curses a tree, flips over tables and drives people out of the temple…during Passover no less!
Did Jesus wake up on the wrong side of the tent? Was he hangry? What is going on?
As I looked at these scenes more closely this week I felt I was seeing Jesus more clearly. I knew that he claimed to be the Son of Man, God’s greater Adam, the Sacrifice for sin, the Divine incarnate. What I feel like I often fail to see is that Jesus’s mission (John 3:16, Romans 5:8) includes and is not separate from the Holy Deity whose longing to be united with His Creation drives him to seek and break down all which separates. A God whose love, rightly, has hatred for that which divides and distorts.
What these scenes whispered before they now seem to shout.
The people in the temple had turned Passover into an opportunity to make money and display their power over others. They crowded the temple courts, but had forgotten why the temple existed.
Jesus hadn’t forgotten. Moreover, he wanted to show his disciples, those in the temple courts that day and wants to show us now that it is God’s desire is for us to enter his house, to believe (have faith) and pray. God’s house is made for that purpose and all nations are invited. Any that wish to come and connect with God are welcome and Jesus is going to flip some tables to make sure you have a way inside. A few days later, he’ll willingly die on a cross for the same reason.
Fig trees were meant to produce figs.
And temples (our bodies and minds, 1 Corinthians 6:19) are meant to consume God’s word, to worship and pray.
Jesus warns us, don’t be phony: in the temple, but not of it, all leaves and no fruit.
Instead, he says, enter into God’s house – have faith.
LORD, this week, illuminate your passion for your people in us. Give us eyes that see and ears that hear. Help us to break down barriers and invite others into your house, a house prayer. Father God, give us faith that produces: a deep trust in your Provision, your Providence and your Plan. Amen.