And they came to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying unto them, “Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.”
And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.
And when even was come, he went out of the city.Mark 11:15-19
Pardon me, I’m interrupting chronology. Before Jesus cleansed the temple, he cursed a fig tree, and I’ll get to that, later. But let’s consider the cleansing of the temple.
This story holds significance, because it is a rare occasion to view the wrath of the Redeemer. The Lamb of God whips lambs out of the temple and overturns the profit of the day.
We rightly take this to mean that churches are not places of business, that we need to keep them empty of greed, but I wonder if that’s all we are supposed to see.
Consider some puzzle pieces.
What if this story is supposed to make us look inside our own temples? Does my life prioritize the worship of God? When I gather with other believers, do I join them in worship and call them to prayer?
Too often, my own heart is filled with misaligned priorities. I say I want God, but I’m lazy in worship. My interactions with other members of the Body of Christ reflect greed. I want the profit of security and acceptance for myself more than I want the purity of the Body of Christ. Too often, I am not a house of prayer.
I am a barren fig tree.
And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.Mark 11:12-14
Why a fig tree? It was a common thing, a plant of sustenance, their daily bread even. The tree was an innocent bystander, not trying to please or annoy the Master. It was off season. One couldn’t expect it to have figs.
Why curse an innocent, ordinary fig tree?
My sense of fairness riles up in defiance: my upbringing reminds me that an all-knowing God knew what He was doing and had some greater purpose, but like the disciples, we must wait for tomorrow.
Lord, forgive us for our greed and for failing to bear the fruit we could. Teach us to be houses of prayer. May Your holiness cleanse our hearts.
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