Cursing & Tossing

Let’s just call it like it is, is Jesus losing it?

He is weeping. He is cursing trees. He is turning over tables in the temple.

Seriously, what is it with this guy? Is he truly Lord or is he just another lunatic on walkabout?

When we actually resist the urge to go from “Hosanna in the highest” on Palm Sunday to “He is Risen” on Easter Sunday and see what Jesus was doing from Monday – Friday, we discover a Jesus we, perhaps, never knew.

Every action, every word is calculated from him. We’d be wise to remember his words to the disciples, “I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:17-18) Jesus was always in control. Even on the cross, Jesus is in control, offering himself, speaking truth, loving well.

In Mark’s Gospel, we see Jesus enter Jerusalem and go to the temple. Since it is late, he looks around and leaves. What was he thinking? In typical, Jesus fashion, he tells us, but if we aren’t careful, we will miss it. Sandwiched between Jesus’s entrances into the temple (Mark 11:11; 11:15) is an odd story of Jesus cursing a fig tree. On a surface level reading we think it an odd story where Jesus simply gets “hangry” and uses his supernatural powers for his own purpose and curses the tree by exclaiming, “may no one ever eat fruit from you again”.

What’s going on here? He is a “king” who rides on a donkey and curses trees when they don’t give him what he wants? Let’s be careful.

He isn’t a king, he is The King. 

And the tree? It’s not about the tree, it’s about the temple. You see the problem with the tree was two-fold; 1) it was alive, but it wasn’t producing. 2) The tree was not living in to it’s created purpose. The tree was alive to produce fruit, that was it’s created purpose. But, again, it’s not about the tree, it’s about the temple.

The temple was alive, but it wasn’t producing, it was selling and it was, as Josephus, the Historian tells us, a literal “den or robbers” because it was a refuge for bandits. Further, the temple was not living into it’s created purpose of being the dwelling place of God. Now, it was the dwelling place of commerce, greed, and unholy acts.

Jospehsus even remarks that God himself probably turned away from the temple and city, because of the horrendous acts that were taking place within the temple courts.

Earlier in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus repeats the words of Isaiah and proclaims, “this people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:8-9). 

This was the problem of the temple, it had the form of being the place where God dwelled, but the actions of the people were repugnant to God.

So what does Jesus do? He marches into the temple after cursing the fig tree and turns over tables, creating a spectacle, by showing us what righteous rage and holy anger truly look like.

Then, in a drop dead, are you kidding me moment, Jesus has the audacity to say of the temple, “my house.” The religious leaders froze in disbelief that a rabbi would utter such heresy, but the heavens rejoiced, because the King was in the house and he was not merely cleansing it, he was declaring, as it truly was, his.

The chief priests and scribes knew they must exterminate him, but they were afraid. Jesus though? He wasn’t afraid, he was on mission that didn’t involve merely restoring the physical temple to its rightful place, but a mission that would allow all those who trust in Him to be temples of His Spirit. A people who were alive and abiding in him, constantly bearing fruit from that abiding in Him…a people living into their created purpose.

Jesus isn’t a lunatic, He is Lord and he has come to show us our purpose.

Reflection

+If Jesus came to you, as a saved, born again, temple of the Holy Spirit, would he find fruit or merely the appearance of life but lacking fruit?

Luke is Pastor of Discipleship to the community of saints, in Christ, at Nashville UMC.

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