Cursing Fig Trees & Cleansing Temples: This Isn’t the Jesus We Wanted

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as written and recorded by John Mark. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses fifteen through thirty-three of the eleventh chapter. When you come to this particular portion of scripture you will find the events of the week of Jesus’ passion beginning to unfold. As you begin reading and studying the words which are contained within this particular section of the gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ you will find that He as already entered into the city of Jerusalem. In fact, when the eleventh chapter of the gospel of His life written by John Mark opens, it does so with Jesus providing vet specific instruction to two of His disciples in order that He might be prepared for this all encompassing and all important week in His natural life on the earth. The eleventh chapter of the gospel of Jesus’ life as written and recorded by John Mark opens up with Jesus instructing two of His disciples to go unto a certain bourse where they would find a very specific donkey which they were to loose and being unto Him. What’s more, is that Jesus would go on to deflate unto His disciples that if anyone asked them why they were loosing the colt, they were to simply declare and say that the Master had need of it. That’s actually quite interesting when you think about it, for with those words what Jesus was declaring was that simply declaring that the Master has need of it was sufficient enough to secure the release of the colt from its location. This event which signaled the beginning of the week of Jesus’ passion was very significant, for not only did it fulfill that which was prophesied and foretold by the prophet Zechariah in the ninth chapter of the prophetic book bearing his name, but it also fulfilled a type and shadow which was present in the Old Testament book of First Kong’s. If you turn and direct your attention to the first chapter of the Old Testament book of First Kong’s you will find David appointing his own mule to be used for his son Solomon to sit upon as he rode through the streets of Jerusalem and presented and declared as king of Israel. In the Old Testament we find the first son of David—a literal and physical son of David—riding through the streets of Jerusalem in David his father’s own mule as the prophet and priest proclaimed and declares that he was king and would sit upon the throne of David. Oh we dare not miss the significance and importance of this Old Testament reality, for it is both a shadow and type of that which we find in the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ.

As you come to the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel written by John Mark you will find him writing and recounting the story of Jesus entering into the city of Jerusalem—not on a white stallion surrounded and followed by an army, nor even surrounded and followed by thousands of men who would stand behind him as his loyal subjects. When Jesus entered into Jerusalem you won’t find him entering into the city riding in a chariot led by two horses, or perhaps a single horse. Despite the fact that palms were broken down off trees and strewn across the road before and behind Jesus, there was no pomp and circumstance that surrounded Jesus’ entrance into the city of Jerusalem. In fact, Jesus had entered into the city of Jerusalem before, and had even entered into the temple which stood in the midst of the city before. What made this time so incredibly different from the previous times when Jesus would enter into Jerusalem? The answer actually lies in the expectation that was upon Jesus when men and women saw Him enter into the city accompanied by His twelve disciples and sitting on a donkey. That which made this particular occasion so incredibly different was the expectation that surrounded His triumphal entry, for this entrance into the city of Jerusalem would be a fulfillment of a prophetic word which was spoken centuries earlier by an ancient Hebrew prophet by the name of Zechariah. Undoubtedly, there was a tremendous expectation surrounding Jesus the Christ and His being the Messiah who would come among the people as the conquering king they had always hoped for and desired. What we find within this particular passage is not only Jesus fulfilling the prophetic word of Zechariah, and not only fulfilling the Old Testament shadow and type of Solomon who was the earthly and natural David, but it also centered upon the tremendous expectation that surrounded Jesus the Christ and His role as the messiah who had been long awaited and long expected. That which we find when Jesus entered into the city of Jerusalem is a powerful expectation that Jesus would be the King of the Jews who would once and for all throw off Roman oppression and tyranny. The expectation surrounding Jesus the Christ—especially when you consider His triumphal entry—was certainly palpable as men and women expected something of Him that He never intended on giving.

When writing about how the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ opens, I was immediately struck and captivated by the fact that what we find here is a type and a form of worship, yet a worship that is not grounded on the true identity and nature of who Jesus the Christ really is. There is a form of worship that is presented unto us within this passage of Scripture, yet the type and form of worship which we find here is a worship which I previously described as a worship of expectation and a worship of the image of expectation. The worship which we find within this passage of Scripture is a worship of Jesus Christ based on an expectation that was placed upon Him by all those who witnessed His triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem. The honor and homage that was paid to Jesus the Christ on this particular day which has commonly become known as “Palm Sunday” was one that was steeped in an expectation and anticipation of a specific type of Messiah which the people themselves were looking for. There is not a doubt in my mind that there were certain men and women who remembered their Jewish history and looked back to the days of David and his son Solomon and remembered how David had his own son placed upon his own mule and paraded through the streets of Jerusalem and proclaimed as the next king of Israel. That which we find in the Old Testament book of First Kings is a powerful shadow and type of that which would unfold at the very beginning of the week of Jesus’ passion, for Jesus Christ Himself—He who was also proclaimed to be the Son of David—would enter into the city of Jerusalem sitting upon a mule or a donkey, and honored by all those who witnessed His triumphal entry. There is not a doubt in my mind that what we find in the opening verses of the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark is a tremendous picture of the expectations we place on Jesus the Christ, and how we fully expect Him to move and operate according to our own wants, our own desires, and our own passions. The people within the city of Jerusalem were willing to bestow upon Jesus honor, homage and praise because they anticipated and expected something very specific from Him. We dare not be so native to think about and consider the fact that what we find within this passage of Scripture is anything less than worshipping Jesus Christ in the image of expectation. We dare not be so quick to ignore the facts that it is possible to worship Jesus the Christ in and according to the image we have formed and fashioned concerning Him within our hearts and minds.

What’s more, is that this isn’t the first time such a reality occurred, for there were at least two other times within the history of Jewish people when the people of God worshipped Him in and according to the image they had made. If you turn your attention back to two specific Old Testament books—the Old Testament book of Exodus, as well as the Old Testament book of First Kings—you will find two distinct and two specific examples of the children of Israel fashioning and forming an image of God which they themselves had made, and engaging themselves in worship of such an image. We would be incredibly wise to recognize and understand that it is possible to form and fashion our own image of God within our hearts and our minds, and actually engage in worship of that image. What’s more, is that I am convinced that there are men and women within and throughout churches across this nation and country who not only have formed and fashioned a specific image of Jesus the Christ in their hearts and minds, but have given themselves over to worshipping Jesus in and according to that image. We would be incredibly wise to recognize and understand this particular reality, for not only does it directly confront our own worship of Jesus according to the image we have made within our minds, but it also confronts our own expectations which we have placed upon Jesus the Christ. That which we find in the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark is indeed a picture of worship and what appears to be an honoring of Jesus the Christ, however, it is only worship which appears on the surface and inwardly is nothing more than a false worship which is steeped in expectation and anticipation of who men and women believed Jesus to be, and what they wanted Him to be like. With that being said, it’s worth considering the two other times within the history of the children of Israel when they formed and fashioned an image of God among themselves and proceeded to worship it—the first was found during the days of Moses while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, and the second was found during the days of Jeroboam when there was not only one image made among the children of Israel, but also a second image was made at the very same time. Consider if you will that which is written and recorded in each of these passages, for they present and bring us face to face with the tremendous reality of forming and fashioning an image of God within our hearts and minds, and then proceeding to worship that image as though it were the true and living God:

“And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me. And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it with a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the Lord. And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play. And the Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: they have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And the Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiff-necked people: now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation. And Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it forever. And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto His people” (Exodus 32:1-14).

“Then Jeroboam built Shechem in mount Ephraim, and dwelt therein; and went out from thence, and built Penuel. And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: if this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn against unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah. Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan. And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi. And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Beth-el the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense” (1 Kings 12:25-33).

What which we find within these two passages in the Old Testament—the first which is found in the Old Testament book of Exodus, and the second which is found in the Old Testament book of First Kings—brings us face to face with the tremendous reality of forming and fashioning an image of God within our own hearts and lives, and then proceeding to worship God in and according to that image. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand what is taking place within each of these passages, for what we find therein is a powerful picture of men who formed an image of gold before and among the people—an image which they themselves would worship, and offer sacrifices and offerings unto. We must recognize and understand that in the days of Moses Aaron built a single golden calf which the people proceeded to worship as the image of the living God, and during the days of Jeroboam there were two golden calves which were formed and fashioned—calves which were worshipped as the image of the living God which had brought them up out of the land of Egypt. What is more interesting about each of these events which took place within the history of the Jewish people is that on both occasions the people of Israel acknowledged the deliverance and salvation of God within their lives. Make note of this and mark this well within your hearts and minds, for it is possible to form and fashion an image of God within our hearts and minds, and even to worship God within and according to that image, and to even acknowledge God as having brought you out of slavery, bondage and oppression, and yet that which you are engaged in within your heart and life is nothing more than an idolatrous worship of God according to the image of Him you have made. What we must recognize and understand is that during the days of Moses and during the days of Jeroboam there were images of God that were actually formed and fashioned from gold and presented as the gods which delivered the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt. During the days of Moses and Jeroboam there were physical and tangible images made of gold which the people themselves proceeded to worship as the gods which delivered them out of the land of Egypt. During the days of these two men the people of God not only formed and fashioned images of God within and among them, but they then proceeded to worship God in and according to the image they had made. Oh, please don’t miss and please don’t lose sight of this tremendous reality, for I am convinced that by doing so we would miss and lose sight of that which is found in the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark. What’s more, is that while in the Old Testament books of Exodus and First Kings we read of idols and images which were set up among the people of Israel which they proceeded to worship as the gods which delivered them out of the land of Egypt, the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel brings us face to face with the awesome and incredible reality of the elders of Israel who didn’t necessarily form and fashion idols and images in the physical and natural sense, but within their hearts. Consider if you will that which is found in the fourteenth chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel beginning with the first verse:

“Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me. And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumbling block of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them? Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up idols in his heart, and putteth the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the Lord will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols; that I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols. Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations. For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to inquire of him concerning me; I the Lord will answer Him by myself: and I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 14:1-8).

In the Old Testament books of Exodus and First Kings we read of physical and natural idols and images which were formed and fashioned among the people of Israel and which were worshipped as the gods which delivered the children of Israel out of their slavery, bondage and oppression within the land of Egypt. In the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel we find something else which is truly unique—namely, that it is possible for the idols and images to be set up and established within our hearts and not simply physical and natural idols and images. The prophet Ezekiel was made aware of the reality of idols and images which had been set up within the hearts of the elders of the people of Israel, as well as the danger of idols which were set up within the hearts of the people of Israel themselves. It is necessary for us to come to terms with this, for when we think of images and idols, we must recognize that they aren’t always physical and natural images and idols which we form with our own hands. There are times when the images and idols we set up within our lives are not seen in the physical and natural realm, but rather are found within our own hearts. If fact, I would dare say that before any idol and image is formed and fashioned in the natural sense, it is always first formed in the spiritual sense within our hearts and within the inward places of our being. With that being said, it is necessary that we recognize and understand this, for the worship which we find in the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark is a powerful display of worshipping Jesus in and according to the image we have formed and fashioned of Him within our hearts. I am thoroughly convinced that that which we find within this specific chapter within the New Testament gospel of Mark is a strong and powerful picture of forming and fashioning an image of Jesus within our hearts and within our minds, and then proceeding to honor and worship that image. What’s more, is that such a worship is false and is not and has never been steeped in reality and truth, but is nothing more than something we have formed and fashioned within our hearts and minds. The people of Judaea and Jerusalem were in fact engaging themselves in worship, however, they were engaging themselves in the worship of expectation and the worship of anticipation concerning and regarding Jesus the Christ. The people of Jerusalem and Judaea had formed and fashioned a specific image of Jesus the Christ within their hearts and minds, and what they worshipped on this particular occasion was nothing more than a worship of their own image of Jesus which they had fashioned themselves. It is important for us to note that it is possible to worship Jesus the Christ in the image of expectation, and it is possible for us to worship the living God in and according to the image of expectation and anticipation we have made. The people of Jerusalem and Judaea were willing to worship Jesus Christ so long as He met their expectations and fulfilled their desires, their wants, their needs, and that which they anticipated, but the minute He began to turn Himself away from that, they would quickly turn the tides on their worship of Him.

What I find to be so incredibly intriguing and interesting about the text we find in the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel written by John Mark is that the first action we find Jesus engaging Himself in after entering into Jerusalem riding on a donkey and praised as being the Son of David, and the king of Israel was entering into the Temple and overturning the tables of money, driving out the money changers, and driving out the merchandise that was brought into the house of the Lord. If you begin reading with and from the fifteenth verse of the eleventh chapter of this New Testament gospel you will find that when Jesus entered into Jerusalem the first time riding on the donkey, He was praised and honored by all those who were willing to straw palm branches along the road upon which He travelled. In fact, in the fourteenth verse of this chapter we find that Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple, and when He had looked round about upon all things, he departed unto Bethany with His twelve disciples. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this particular reality, for there is not a doubt in my mind that when you read this passage of Scripture you must understand that Jesus had to have seen the money changers, the tables of money and the merchandise that was present within the Temple of the Lord which was present within the city of Jerusalem. There is not a doubt in my mind that when Jesus first entered into the city of Jerusalem He witnessed and beheld the atrocities that were being committed in the Temple, yet chose not to act upon such atrocities at that particular moment in time. It wouldn’t be until the next day when Jesus would make his way into Jerusalem again from Bethany that He would once more enter the Temple, and this time things would be completely different than before. When you begin reading with and from the fifteenth verse of the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark you will find Jesus entering into the Temple after departing from Bethany with His twelve disciples, and cursing a fig tree that bore no fruit. How absolutely incredible and interesting it is to consider the fact that on the very next day Jesus departed from Bethany, came upon a fig tree that bore no fruit and cursed that fig tree, and then entered into the Temple within the city of Jerusalem and proceeded to cleanse the Temple. CURSING THE FIG TREE AND CLEANSING THE TEMPLE! How absolutely intriguing it is to think about and consider the fact that Jesus not only cursed that which bore no fruit after coming upon it and observing that no fruit had grown upon its branches, and immediately following the cursing of the fig tree, Jesus then proceeds to cleanse the Temple of all the merchandise and iniquity that was found to be present within it.

When we speak of worshipping Jesus in the image of expectation and worshipping Jesus in the image of our own anticipation, it is important for us to also discuss the reality of how we react and how we respond when Jesus begins to reveal to us that he didn’t come to meet our expectations, to fulfill our desires, and to meet all that we anticipated with and from Him. This is precisely what I am convinced began to happen when we come to the twelfth verse of the eleventh chapter in this passage of Scripture, for we begin to encounter a Jesus who doesn’t more and operate according to our own standards, according to our own expectations, and according to our own desires and anticipations. That which we find within this passage of Scripture is a wonderful and powerful picture of a Jesus who begins to operate outside of the parameters we have placed upon Him, and begins to reveal that He didn’t show up to act the way we wanted Him to act. Oh, this brings me to a very important question which I feel I must ask you who are reading this, and that is simply how you react and how you respond when Jesus doesn’t act the way you thought He should act. How do you respond when Jesus doesn’t respond the way you want Him to, and when He doesn’t meet or fulfill your expectations, and those desires and wants you placed upon Him? What do you do when your entire belief system concerning Jesus comes crashing down because you find Jesus isn’t operating the way you thought He would and perhaps even should operate? It is absolutely incredible to read the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark, for within its words and phrases we find a Jesus beginning to engage Himself in behavior and actions which are far outside of the box we have put and placed Him in. What we find within this passage of Scripture is an incredibly powerful picture of Jesus who enters into the city of Jerusalem riding on a donkey and is praised and honored by all those who witnessed His triumphal entry, and yet begins to operate outside of the expectations and desires men placed upon Him. What would begin with the cursing of that which produced no fruit would continue with cleansing that which defiled the house of His Father which stood in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. CURSING THAT WHICH DOESN’T BEAR FRUIT AND CLEANSING THAT WHICH DEFILES THE TEMPLE! WHAT TYPE OF KING IS THIS? This is the question that I am convinced countless men and women ask themselves when they began to watch the actions of Jesus unfold during this final week, for He began to operate outside the parameters which they had expected and anticipated. Here was Jesus who entered into the city of Jerusalem riding on a donkey and being praised and honored by the people of Jerusalem and Judaea, and yet what we find Him doing was anything but fulfilling that which they expected and anticipated of and from Him. I would dare say that if Jesus had entered into Jerusalem as a conquering king, and had begun overthrowing the Roman garrisons and outposts within the city of Jerusalem, and had begun to overthrow the oppression and tyranny of Rome within Judaea and Jerusalem, the religious leaders and the religious system would not have become offended with Him and sought to destroy Him. The problem with Jesus was that He didn’t come to overthrow the tyranny and oppression of Rome, but rather overthrow the tyranny and oppression of sin and of the devil. This is perhaps what is so incredibly unique about what we find and read in the eleventh chapter of this New Testament gospel, for within we find Jesus cursing that which doesn’t bear fruit, and cleansing that which defiles the Temple of the Lord.

The question I would present unto you who are reading this passage of Scripture is whether or not you are worshipping Jesus in the image of expectation which you have set up within your own heart. Are you worshipping Jesus in your own image of expectation, and are you worshipping Jesus in the image of anticipation, and are forming and perhaps even have formed an image of Jesus within your own heart and mind? What’s more, is what expectations are you placing, and what expectations have you placed upon Jesus? Are the expectations which you have placed upon Jesus unrealistic and perhaps even unscriptural? I would dare say that when we come into the presence of the living Gods and when we come unto Jesus we absolutely dare not, and absolutely must not come with any pre-conceived ideas and expectations, for to do so would be to set ourselves up to play a dangerous game of Russian roulette—one that might find us growing offended with Jesus and even seeking to destroy Him. The problem with expectations which we place upon Jesus is that more often than not we might find Jesus moving and operating outside of those expectations—particularly and especially when we find Him beginning to curse that which does not bear and bring forth fruit within our lives, and cleansing that which defiles the Temple and house of the Lord within our lives. The people of Judaea—specifically the religious leaders, the chief priests, the elders of Israel, the scribes, and the like—began to grow offended with Jesus the Christ because instead of conquering Rome He chose to curse the fig tree and cleanse the Temple. What do you do when instead of conquering Rome you find Jesus cleansing the Temple and cursing the fig tree? The problem any of us have with Jesus is we expect him to conquer Rome, and perhaps even to do so on our behalf, and yet we find Him seeking to curse the fig tree and cleanse the Temple. “Jesus, we don’t want you to curse fig trees! Jesus we don’t want you to cleanse the Temple. Jesus, we want you to conquer Rome! Jesus this is what we wanted from you. Jesus this is what we needed from you! Jesus this is how we thought you should act! Jesus this is who we needed and wanted you to be! Jesus you aren’t doing it correctly! Jesus you aren’t doing it right! Jesus you have it all wrong! Jesus what are you doing? Jesus, why aren’t you listening?” These questions are more often than not questions which we ask Jesus on the regular, and these statements are statements we oftentimes make when we find Jesus operating outside of the expectations and desires we have placed upon Him. Oh it is my prayer that when you read the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark, and when you read the words which are found and contained within this writing you will be challenged concerning and with your own expectations concerning Jesus, the image(s) you have formed concerning Jesus the Christ, and how you handle it when Jesus doesn’t operate within the parameters you have set, and when He begins to curse fig trees and cleanse temples instead of conquering Rome. Ultimately, and at the end of the day this all boils down to recognizing and understand that which Jesus truly desires, and laying our expectations, laying our desires, laying our wants, laying our anticipations down at the altar of a Jesus who is free to move and operate the way He was always intended, and to be free to be Himself within our lives. Oh that Jesus the Christ would be free and would be released to be who he is and who. He should be within our lives, and that we place no ulterior motives or expectations upon Him that are not only unrealistic, but are also unscriptural.

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