Lent 2020 - Week One Devotional
Jesus’ humanity is on full display as this passage opens. He is hungry. Then, he becomes angry. After the big parade and welcome Jesus had received the day before in nearby Jerusalem, he and his disciples set out from Bethany heading back into Jerusalem. Along the way, he sees a fig tree off in the distance, and he has his heart set on some plump, juicy figs for breakfast. But when they get closer to the tree, they see leaves and more leaves, but no fruit. He is so put out by this that, within earshot of his friends, he curses the tree, saying, “No one is going to eat fruit from you again—ever!” This was not the best start to his week.
They go on to Jerusalem and arrive at the Temple, where he fumes at what he sees. It’s like a flea market, and he’s having none of it. He forces them out, but before they go, he tells them, “My house was designated a house of prayer for the nations; You’ve turned it into a hangout for thieves.” This makes the people think, so much so that they are mesmerized by what Jesus has to say, which puts the high priests and scholars into a tailspin. They begin pondering how they can get rid of him.
In reality, Jesus is not cursing the fig tree simply because he is hungry and there is no fruit. His action is symbolic. In the Bible, the fig tree sometimes represents Israel. So Jesus is saying that Israel has leaves and looks as if she is bearing fruit, but in reality there is no fruit.
Jesus then enters Jerusalem and goes into the Temple, driving out everyone who is selling and buying goods in the Temple. This is an example of how the people looked as though they were bearing fruit but were not. People came from all over to worship in the Temple. It was not reasonable to bring an animal from home to worship; so many would buy the animal when they arrived in Jerusalem. Merchants in the Temple were making it easy for people to worship by selling the animals in the Temple complex itself. While that seemed like a good idea, it was not God’s idea.
This passage in Mark gives us the opportunity to ponder for ourselves how our faith is manifesting itself or not. We might consider how our practices are helping or getting in the way of a meaningful relationship with God and with our neighbor.