Yesterday was Palm Sunday. We watched Jesus as he entered the city of Jerusalem and immediately stirs things up! He's on a collision course w/ the powers that be... religious and Roman, alike!
For the next 3 days we're going to keep following Jesus through Mark's gospel, watching and listening to him as he moves toward the cross. Here's a bit of a reflection our discipleship team created to help us to do just that. It is set up in the ARM office at Wesley, along with a prayer response, if you are able to come by and read and reflect and pray with it.
If not, we hope you'll take a few moments to consider the following, where ever you are!
Scripture: Mark 11: 12-21
“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it. On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’[a]? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’[b]” The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. When evening came, Jesus and his disciples[c] went out of the city. In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
The fig tree in leaf was a sign of the life and vitality of Jewish temple life… which isn’t just about a place where worship happens. The temple then was like an interesting mash up of going to church and going to the chamber of commerce at city hall. It was at once the religious AND economic center of the people’s life. And this is fine. Jesus isn’t judging that.
He’s judging the kind of religious and economic life that’s happening here.
The chief priest and scribes and many of the other authorities at the temple are making very good livings by what they charge for the ordinary economic life of the temple - what it costs to purchase the necessary things to offer sacrifice. In addition Rome’s presence is here in the temple (as the center of economic life) and they charge a sizeable tax on the people. And if that weren’t enough, on top of that King Herod (who was a puppet of Rome) added extra tax to the one Rome demanded, by which Herod grew his own personal wealth. All of this fell squarely on the backs of the people - many of whom lived in or on the edge of poverty their whole life.
Can you see why Jesus would be so enraged by what he sees when he walks into the temple. Why he would say, “This is supposed to be a house of prayer for ALL people (most especially those who are poor and in need) and you’ve made it into a den of robbers!” (a place where the rich are ripping off the poor and doing it in the name of faithfulness to God... and in collusion with Rome).
Questions to Ponder
If Jesus were to show up in the temple of your own life, what would he be driving out? What would he be declaring as lifeless injustice? What would he name as not producing good fruit?
What are ways that you LONG for new and good fruit to spring up in your life? What is a prayer you would want to pray about that?
Who are the people, where are the places where you feel drawn to special care and concern for those in need? How can you begin to join Jesus there?