Redeemer Family, During holy week, our pastors and other leaders are sharing reflections about the week. What was Jesus doing each day? And how does this show more about who He is and what He accomplished for us in His death and resurrection? Follow along each day. - Pastor Kevin
Day 2: Monday by Dale Googer
Matthew 21:1-11 12 Jesus went into the temple and threw out all those buying and selling. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. 13 He said to them, “It is written, my house will be called a house of prayer,[b] but you are making it a den of thieves!”
14 The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. 15 When the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonders that he did and the children shouting in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant 16 and said to him, “Do you hear what these children are saying?”
Jesus replied, “Yes, have you never read: You have prepared praise from the mouths of infants and nursing babies?”
17 Then he left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there. 18 Early in the morning, as he was returning to the city, he was hungry. 19 Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, he went up to it and found nothing on it except leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” At once the fig tree withered.
20 When the disciples saw it, they were amazed and said, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?”
21 Jesus answered them, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you tell this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done.22 And if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
I’d wager a guess that most of us haven’t entered a city to the fanfare and adulation that Jesus received yesterday, on Palm Sunday. At that moment he was carrying the triumphant expectations of a nation in bondage; Israel had to read history books to remember the last time they had a true King that championed them before the nations. Whereas we, in that position, might seek to “keep the momentum” of the people, Jesus seems perfectly willing to stop it in its tracks.
When Jesus has the eyes of Israel on him, He begins what really seems to be a strange sequence of choices.
First, he heads to the temple to literally clean house in something that strikes many of us as an uncharacteristic portrayal of anger. Following this, he quotes Psalm 8:2 to the chief priest because in the priest’s mind Jesus was failing to stop children from blaspheming (when they were actually speaking the truth). Lastly, after a night of rest outside town and while on his way into Jerusalem, Jesus curses a fig tree because it has failed to provide him the breakfast he was looking for.
So what gives? Who is this King of Glory?
Jesus’ actions might seem very out of step with a King seeking to establish power (which was the stated anticipation for many of his contemporaries), but they actually seem right at home with the Prophets of old.
For the temple cleansing, what we see is not a quick outburst of anger, but a calculated and intentional demonstration of Jesus’ prophetic authority. John’s gospel account (John 2:15) of the same event tells us that Jesus took the time to make a whip before he decided to rearrange the furniture. The image is reminiscent of Moses coming down from the holy mountain, hoping to see God’s people expectantly waiting for God’s law, but instead finding them completely defiled and worshipping an idol of their own creation. Jesus takes this personally; his house is being defiled by the very people who ought to be waiting for his arrival.
Next, we see a brief but powerful display of people who understand what is going on. The blind, the lame, and the young all come to Jesus because his authority and power is on full display. What do these demographics have in common? They all have their dependence on God ever before them as reality. The priests have long since internalized their righteousness as a product of their own making and, as such, cannot see obvious workings of the Lord before them.
Lastly, and most strangely, Jesus curses a fig tree that failed to provide him the food he wanted. Out of context, Jesus almost seems petulant. In the context of his audience, though, he’s sending a warning signal. The Lord promised Israel fruitfulness in exchange for their faithfulness in following Him. In fact, the subcategory of fig-fruitfulness has its own history (Mic 7:1, Jer 8:13, Hos 9:10-17)! Jeremiah specifically says, “When I would gather them, declares the LORD, there are no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree; even the leaves are withered, and what I gave them has passed away from them.” It’s not just a fig tree, it strikes a chord with Jesus because he can see the unfruitfulness of his people everywhere he looks.
Jesus immediately takes the withering of the fig tree and uses it to teach his disciples an object lesson in faith. We can almost imagine him, looking at those near him, trying to impress upon them the weight of the moment. “I’m here, right now. Everything is coming together as the prophets told, because they were my prophets. And you are this close to missing the story.”
Jesus has his eyes fixed on the Cross in his near future, but he’s taking his first full day in Jerusalem not to establish Kingly rule, but to give one last prophetic call to His people. Jesus wants to make sure, before his coming glory, that his audience knows it is their responsibility – now – to respond to who he really is. May our hearts be humble, so that we might become like little children and be born again. Our only other option is to become a lesson in unfaithfulness.