Good morning and welcome to another day where the blood of Christ has burned your sins into ashes and scattered them in the wind! Yesterday we journeyed with Jesus into Jerusalem as He was followed by crowds shouting “Hosanna!”
Mark’s Gospel tells us that immediately following the Triumphal Entry, “[Jesus] entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.” (Mark 11:11, ESV).
You might be wondering, “If Jesus entered into Jerusalem, why is He now leaving?”
The most likely answer is because Jerusalem was full up. As I preached yesterday, everyone, their mothers, their siblings, and their cousins were in Jerusalem for Pesach (the Passover). Since Bethany was only a mile away, it would have served as a convenient location for Jesus and the Twelve to stay while still close enough to Jerusalem.
This morning, Jesus begins His journey back into Jerusalem, though by the end of the day, several people are probably wishing that He didn’t.
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“On the following day [Monday], when they came from Bethany, [Jesus] was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.And he said to it, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard it.
And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, ‘Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.’ And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city.” (Mark 11:12-19, ESV)
Matthew likewise writes:
“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, ‘It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.’
And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were indignant, and they said to him, ‘Do you hear what these are saying?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes; have you never read,
‘‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?’
And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.” (Matthew 21:12-17, ESV)
“And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, ‘It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.’” (Luke 19:45, ESV)
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Now some of you may be thinking “I thought Jesus cleared out the temple earlier in His ministry?” You’d be right!
John’s Gospel records the Cleansing of the Temple in Chapter 2, immediately after the Wedding at Cana. While this can be confusing to some who might think that the Scriptural accounts of Jesus’ life contradict, it’s far more likely that Jesus cleared out the Temple twice.
As anyone who has kids or had younger siblings growing up, you can attest: sometimes the first message isn’t good enough, and you’ve got to give a reminder. Jesus probably cleansed the Temple, only to leave and have everyone say “Good! He’s gone! Let’s set everything up again!”
Returning to Jerusalem the final time, He saw the Temple once again filled with moneychangers, and realized He had to cleanse it again.
As we read today of Jesus’ discussion of the fig tree, fruits, and the cleansing of the Temple, I’d like to leave you with two other Scriptural exhortations, which I think tie in rather well to Jesus’ words for us today.
The first is from Matthew:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:27-28, ESV)
The second is from Joel:
“’Yet even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.’ Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God?” (Joel 2:12-14, ESV)
The fig tree bore no fruit, and thus withered. The Scribes, Pharisees, and those in the Temple exchanging money that had Caesar on it for money “worthy of offering to God,” (at a price) thought that they were righteous and doing what God wanted, but inwardly were unregenerate and unfaithful. Their works seemed like the fulfilment of the Law, and they loved to “do good” and boast of their faithfulness, but without faith, their works and their attempts were naught but dust and ashes.
We should give thanks to God for the gift of faith, but also be weary lest we hide it and forget it.
In Christ’s Peace,
Pastor Singer ☩