Tuesday: The Lesson of the Fig Tree, Temple Controversies (March 31, AD 33)
Matt 21:20-25:46; Mark 11:20-13:37; Luke 20:1-21:36
On the following day, Jesus and his disciples pass by the fig tree Jesus had cursed the previous day. When Jesus’ followers notice that the tree had withered, Jesus challenges them to have faith in God; they must trust him and forgive others who have sinned against them.
When arriving at the Temple, the chief priests, scribes, and elders challenge his authority, the Temple cleansing still fresh on their minds: “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” (Mark 11:28). The chief priests, scribes, and elders asserted authority over the Temple and rightly recognize that Jesus had challenged their authority.
In reply, Jesus turns the tables (figuratively this time!) and asks them a counter-question regarding the origin of John the Baptist’s ministry. He also tells them several parables, such as one of two sons—one initially reluctant to obey, another appearing to obey while turning out to be disobedient—and another of the wicked tenants (symbolizing the Jewish authorities), as well as the parable of the wedding feast. In various ways, Jesus holds Israel to account for failing to truly trust God and obey him in their hearts. The time of judgment is at hand.
People keep trying to trip him up. They ask, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?” If he says “yes,” how can he be the Messiah whom people expected to shake off oppressive foreign rule? If he says “no,” is he the political threat his enemies made him out to be who should be arrested by the Romans because of attempted insurrection? Again, Jesus’ clever answer eludes their grasp. Later that evening, Jesus instructs his disciples about the future, both imminent and more distant, in the Olivet Discourse.
Are we coming to Jesus prepared to obey? Or are we approaching to argue or challenge him? Do we view him as a threat to our lifestyle and rationalization of sin? Would we rather have him leave us alone? Let us reflect on ways in which we can be more open and receptive to Jesus and allow him to correct us and instruct us about God’s expectations for our lives.
Note: This is an excerpt from a blog that originally appeared on Songtime.com. You can view the original post here.