Holy Week: Monday
It’s clear at this point that Jesus means business. He inexplicably curses the fig tree and violently cleanses the temple in a righteous rage (Mark 11:12-26). While Jesus is a humble King who will travel the road of humiliation and crucifixion on the way to exaltation, He is not impotent or passive. Jesus is making all things new! He is cutting the path of a new way forward — a new way of living, dying, and rising. The way of the Kingdom is one of living, active faith and earnest prayer, which bears fruit unto eternal life for the sake of nations knowing and abiding in God.
And yet, there is a problem. The tree (Israel) is dead. The temple (the place of worship) is hive of thievery and subtle idolatry. There is no fruit on the vine and there is no room for prayer in the place of prayer. The prayers that are uttered, are uttered without faith. The Father is unseen, the promises are warped toward selfish ends, and the nations are neglected. Empty ritual and legalism have replaced vibrant faith in the living God — a faith and life into which all people were to be beckoned and drawn. And as a result, judgment comes swiftly. Jesus strikes! The cursed fig tree is a picture of fruitless Israel and the cleansed temple is a picture of God’s legitimate judgment of His people’s idolatry — a deformed contortion of the glorious calling they had received to be hosts to all people.
Jesus means business when it comes to us this Holy Week too. Efficiency is not His concern. Convenience isn’t either. While Jesus brings with Him boundless comfort, it comes to us not at the expense of His mission or His identity as the King of a new Kingdom, but as the overflow of His work on our behalf. With this in mind, His harsh and abrupt actions here are actually ones of love — breaking up and softening our calcified hearts that have subtly and slowly been hardened by our serving false gods. As He exposed the fruitless fig tree that Israel was and as He cleansed the polluted temple, so Jesus exposes our fruitlessness, which is the overflow of our misplaced worship.
My friends, what is Jesus exposing in your heart this Holy Week? What must He clear out of the way for there to be space for faithful prayer and others-oriented service and witness in your life? Again, this is actually a grace to us, a gift if we will receive it. Jesus is giving Himself to us in the place of our idols and fruitless lives. He has so much better for us! Steadfast love. Grace abounding. A life truly alive. Lost ones brought into God’s family through us.
Jesus tells the disciples, in response to their questions about the cursed fig tree, to “have faith in God” and “whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:22, 24). Why does Jesus respond this way? Jesus is saying that whatever stands in the way of your fruitfulness in Christ and whatever crowds out your prayers in worship is not too big for Him to remove from your path. As we desire fruitfulness and a truly alive life, our response ought to be collaborating with Jesus as He cleanses our hearts and lives by turning to Him in fervent, faith-filled prayer — expecting great things and asking for great things, because He is a great Savior.
Jesus means business. And this is good news. What would it look like to lean into His agenda this week?