Monday of Holy Week

Monday of Holy Week
On Sunday evening of what we call Palm Sunday, Jesus left Jerusalem and went to Bethany where He stayed the night (Mk. 11:11).

Mark 11:12-19

On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he 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 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.

Castiglione,_Giovanni_Benedetto_-_Jésus_chasse_les_vendeurs_du_temple_-_17th_century

The cursing of the fig tree is possibly a parallel to the Parable of the Fig Tree (Lk. 13:6-9) and symbolic of what was happening as the nation had, at this time of the cursing, rejected Jesus for three years. In keeping with the parable of the barren fig tree the tree should be cut down since it was not producing any fruit, just like what was happening in the nation at this time.

The clearing of the temple was to remove those were selling sacrificial animals to help those who lived in far off lands make their appropriate sacrifices to God through purchasing their sacrifice. The problem was that they had turned it into a way for people to make money and to cheat people who were not able to bring the appropriate sacrifice the distance to the temple. As Jesus entered the temple he knew what had been going on and immediately cleared the temple. This was one of the few occasions where we see Jesus exhibiting any sort of anger, and it was a righteous anger at that. The people had defiled the holy place of God and Jesus would not stand for it.

Today we do not offer sacrifices at a temple like people used to have to do, instead we are to “offer [y]our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1). We are told in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 that we “are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in [y]our midst.” So if you picture your body as a temple of God and then place yourself into the timeline as the temple that Jesus cleared out. What would He have to clear out from you? Our bodies are the holy temple of God. Holiness is an attribute of God and no other, so whatever is not of God must be removed from the temple. These are the things in our life that the Holy Spirit is prompting us to change. Some are small things that can be easily discarded while others will take more effort and God sees the effort that we put forth. He knows when we love Him and are willing to do anything it takes to be closer to Him.

This is the final week before Jesus is placed on the cross for the sins that we carry. What sins need to be removed from the temple that you house within you today?

Cleansing of the temple

Father, we thank you for Jesus who on this day in history cleared the temple of the money changers who were cheating the people. We ask of you to reveal the money-changers within us who are cheating us from being closer to you. Father, we desire to offer ourselves to you as holy and pleasing, but we recognize that we can only do that with your help and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We turn to you Lord and beg of you to cleanse us, remove everything from us that is not you and fill it with your presence. Lord, use us as a light to the world to illuminate those around us who are in darkness. Father, place these people on our hearts and place a burden on our hearts to see them come to you. Let your Kingdom come here on earth, just as it is in heaven. Bless us and strengthen us to do your work. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Bear Much Fruit

In Mark 11:12-14 Jesus was hungry and happened to walk past a fig tree. The tree was out of season and had no figs when Jesus began looking for food. Since it had no figs He said to the tree,”May no one ever eat fruit from you again” (Mk 11:14). It wasn’t like Jesus didn’t understand that the tree was out of season, even though He was hungry and probably legitimately frustrated, but He used it to illustrate a point to His disciples who were near by. Jesus was frustrated with the tree, but He was also frustrated with His journey and the response of so many of the people.

The tree illustrates the hard-hearted Jewish people who had been promised so much and who had waited so eagerly for their Messiah yet did not recognize Jesus for who he was. Even though they had strong roots they did not produce fruit, just like the fig tree. They had taken what was good and manipulated it into something that it was not. For example, in the next story in Mark Jesus goes to the temple and finds the money changers in the temple dealing unfairly and robbing the very people who were coming to worship God. The practice of selling animals for sacrifice was an accepted practice as people would have to come from great distances to make their sacrifices to God. The money changers had been gouging the people, taking advantage of them, and were now robbing them on their way to the Father. What had started off as an appropriate thing to do that would have helped people get closer to God had been marred and turned into something bad and thus needed to be pruned.

As Christians, followers of Christ, we have a calling to be fruitful and to be honest in all that we do.

John 15:1-8

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

We are all called to bear fruit in all seasons of life. The Father will prune us so that we become more fruitful by slowly changing our lives. Pruning takes time and patience and cannot be done too quickly or else damage will be caused to the branch. During the pruning process the undesirable parts are trimmed back over time until that which is not of benefit to the branch is removed. This is not just a one and done process, it must continue for the full life of the tree if it is to be the most effective and reach its full potential. The same is true in our lives. Our Father is always pruning us by revealing things to us in our lives that do not belong. Some of us have been pruned longer than others, but the Father is always busy shaping us so that we can produce the most fruit. We always have a choice of how we respond to the pruning. We always have a choice to sprout where we have been pruned and produce new life or to simply wither away in that spot and leave a big scar.

So, are you producing fruit today? If not then what needs to change in your life to allow you to do that? John 15:8 says that “this is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” We must bear fruit if we want to show ourselves to be Jesus’ disciples. If we are not bearing fruit we must quickly re-examine our lives and act where we see the Holy Spirit moving. You see God is always active in our lives and is always using the Holy Spirit to mold us whether we recognize it or not. The question then remains, are we producing fruit and how can we become even more fruitful?

Father, you are so merciful and so patient in your pruning of us and we thank you for that. Lord, we beg of you to reveal to us where you are currently pruning us so that we can respond and create growth instead of death. Help us to be fruitful in all that we do. We are ready for the lifelong process of being molded into a tree that bears much fruit. God without you we are nothing and we will wither away and die. We do not want to be cut off and cast into the fire. We need you, we love you. Forgive us where we have failed you and where we have ignored your leading. Help us to understand the depths of your love for us today as we respond to your leading. In Jesus’ name. Amen.