Mark 11 out of all the Gospels recounting Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem, none captures some thread of truth like Mark does. This passage in Mark 11 has been used to justify the truth about exercising faith, albeit taken out of its original context.
Once you put it into its context, and applying into a current situation more potent the truth becomes. Jesus had just come into Jerusalem, doing nothing but examine the Temple, observing, then leaving for Bethany, where we saw what happened there yesterday in the message I published for this special Easter week.
Jesus then passes a fig tree. Whoever is not acquainted with the fig tree, does not know why Jesus cursed the fig tree. A fig tree even though it is not the season for fruit, one can tell a good season by the amount of leaves. In this example the fig tree in question was full of leaves. Therefore there was to be little or no fruit in that season.
The next day Jesus entered into the Temple and expelled all the businesses there selling animals and all kind of “religious merchandise”. He reiterates the purpose of the Temple, being a House of prayer for all nations.
On the way out they pass the fig tree, dry and dead. Peter remarks how Jesus’ curse had travelled from the roots upward. Here we see there is a connection between the fig tree and God’s House of prayer. The “show of leaves” and “no fruit” represented the faith of the nation that time, it was all apparent with no fruit to bear of its fruitfulness. In fact the fruit we need to bear belongs to the process of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.
Jesus’ curse is one that works from the root. It attacks the root first, bringing a death to a bad root. From the unseen realm, from the motivations, from the way things are conceived.
We know from history that this Temple was destroyed in 70AD, all its sacrifices stopped, all its intercessions ceased till now. Jesus had removed its “Lampstand”.
The fruit Jesus is looking for is that which corresponds with Isaiah 11, and Galatians 5 together. And right now we have seen in this international crisis that buildings, churches have been closed, all intercessions from them halted, all “sacrifices of praise” have ceased from them. It may be a temporary measure because of a deadly virus, but it has laid bare where our “Church” is at. Surely Jesus’ removal of His Blessing will cut away at motivations, projects, fundraisings. In fact Jesus expelled the money changers from the Temple. The “curse” works out in the Spirit, in that dimension where divine life flows, ceases and death sets in.
In fact there are two distinct visitations to the Temple here in Mark 11. The first was observation the other being confrontation. For so long there have been errors and abuses in the Body, that God either sent this situation we are in now, or He permitted. However we look at it, we are seeing the fruits. The foundations are being shaken, for big ministry it is a shaky time, for those so prepared they are progressing to the full stature of their calling. Maybe for 40 or more years Jesus has been observing now, and now in this year of 2020 He has come to confront and expell our “moneychangers”. The zeal of Jesus is laid bare, and His anger against mammon in the sanctuary is plain.
When we let these other things in, and the political structuring, our central core and motivation of existence ceases to burn, our love for our Lord. The Lord Himself confronts Ephesus in Revelation 2, with a warning, that He would remove the Lampstand. We see this Lampstand in Zechariah 4, sustaining the new restoration of the Temple foundation. We see that they plant a restoring work of God with Israel as she comes out of captivity.
This is the work that Jesus is doing in Mark 11, He is closing down the present Temple. He is laying a foundation for His new unseen Temple. Here in Zechariah 4, we are given the meaning of the picture above, it is “not by human might, nor by power, but by the Spirit.” Here in Acts 2 we see how God inaugurates His Third Temple, it is an unseen Habitation in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22).
The rebuke of Christ to the Church in Ephesus is one that warrants in His Eyes the removal of His Lampstand, they were lukewarm in their love for Jesus. When you consider that Ephesus was recipient of the greatest theological treatise in Paul’s letter, a new generation rose up did not hold the same passion, as it was 35 years since that letter had been received.
Jesus was not laying a foundation for a building, but bringing forth a Bride.
The Bride is characterised by her preparation of the Spirit to be Jesus’ lover, hence the severity of His rebuke. It is a rebuke to a shadow of a love once felt, it was a spiritual life as a shadow of its regeneration.
This preparation day for Easter week has all to do with what we are experiencing now. Our love is being tested, our motivations being made plain. Our future will depend on whether we pass Jesus’ fig tree test. Does our life have all leaves and no fruit?
In this Easter week may we reflect on the message He is sending us.