Journey with Christ

The Barren Fig Tree that Jesus cursed and the critics & powers that be (Journeys 50-51)

We have landed at a point in history in these discussions where we see Jesus doing very odd things that most people would find unorthodox. Since Jesus was so unorthodox, he attracted a severe amount of unwanted attention; however, Jesus remained calm, which is hard to imagine.

The Scriptures for all of the narratives covered today are in Mark 11:12-12:44; Matthew 21:12-23:9; Luke 19:45-21:4; John 12:20-50. Jesus traveled from Bethany to Jerusalem, returning to Bethany, and then repeating it the next day (Monday-Tuesday). He frequently was in the Temple in Jerusalem during these encounters.

The Barren Fig Tree

In the morning, as Jesus and His Disciples walked from Bethany again to Jerusalem, they passed a fig tree that Jesus saw as a symbol of the Jewish nation. Therefore, He approached it looking for fruit, didn’t find any, which was similar to His looking for spiritual fruit in the Jewish nation, and didn’t find anything despite their outwardly religious acts. They may have done many good works; however, they were spiritually barren (bearing no fruit). This caused the fig tree to dry up.

Soon, Jesus cleanses the city again, which showed God’s Judgment on those that forgot why certain religious establishments existed, as they wanted to use them to make money. God was more pleased with Jesus’ healings of the blind and crippled than He was in the religious activities of the Jews.

By Being ‘Lifted Up,’ He will Draw All Men Unto Him

Some of those that visited for the Passover were of Greek origin, and had joined themselves with the Synagogue communities. However, they wanted to see Jesus. When the Lord learned of this, He wanted to announce that the climax of what He came to do has arrived, and He was now about to lay down His Life. He saw the Greeks as the Firstfruits of the Gentiles’ harvests, and knew that it would result from His death.

Grains of wheat died and were buried before they could grow up to produce harvest. Just the same, Jesus had to die so that the multitudes of all nations would find Eternal Life. This marks the principle of “death before life”—which applies to those who follow Jesus. For His Sake, they must sacrifice their self-serving in life so they can be fruitful for Him. It’s not about self-pleasing, but about giving and serving. People would despise the Gentiles just as they despised Jesus; however, God would honor them.

Jesus trembled at the thought of suffering, but knew that His time has come, therefore, He prayed that His death would glorify the Father, to which, His Father replied in a voice from Heaven that His Prayer would be answered. Many people looked on as they wondered what they just heard; however, Jesus told them that the time of satan’s defeat is approaching, and that through Jesus’ crucifixion, people of all nations would be delivered from satan’s power to be brought into the freedom of the Kingdom of God.

Many people were confused at His statements however, He spoke of Himself as “the son of man,” but if He used “The Messiah,” then how could the Messiah die on the cross? They thought of the Messiah to be One that would live forever. Jesus had no more time to reason with them; however, He did urge them to believe in Him immediately so they might walk in the light while He was still on Earth—otherwise, darkness would come upon them that they would be lost eternally.

Most Jewish people were stubborn in unbelief, just as Isaiah prophesied, for anyone that believed in Him were afraid to openly say it, because they feared of not being able to enter the Synagogue. In His final words to the crowd, Jesus explained that to believe in Him was to also believe in God; however, rejecting Him would be rejecting God as well. Jesus came to save, not condemn, and therefore, the words He spoked were of Divine Origin (from God) and on the Day of Judgment, the same words would be a witness of the condemnation of those who rejected Him.

What Jesus is trying to teach us: We must avoid self-pleasing things, but give more and serve more unto people. This will help His Gospel continue to spread, because as people see our kindness, they will be more open to receive the Gospel!

The Barren Fig Tree Withered

Jesus answers the Disciples, as they were asking why the fig tree withered, to which, He told them that if they were to have faith, they could say to something to be removed and cast into the sea, and it will be done. All things that someone believes in prayer they will receive. Have faith in God and believe in what He can do so that He can give unto us what we ask. We must also forgive others so God would forgive us!

Jesus is questioned at the Sanhedrin

IN A NUTSHELL: The Synoptic Gospels gives more details of the teaching of Jesus on Tuesday in the Temple, and on the Mount of Olives than for any other single day. It is a day of controversy. The ruler formally challenges the authority of Jesus as an accredited teacher. It was very common to test a Rabbi with hard questions. The Sanhedrin was within their rights in challenging the ecclesiastical and scholastic (scribal) standing of Jesus. Jesus did not dodge in His answers. Jesus bases His human authority on John the Baptist, His forerunner who baptized Him, and demands the Sanhedrin’s opinion of the Baptism of John. This pertinent counter-question paralyzes the Jewish leaders, and Jesus drives His argument home by three Parables: The Parable of the Two Sons; The Parable of the Wicked Husbandman; and The Parable of the Marriage Feast of the King’s Son.

The story: As Jesus returned to the Temple, Jewish leaders swarmed in to question Him, hoping to find something that could trap Him. They asked Him on what authority He acted upon, especially overthrowing common Jewish practices of the Temple. Jesus turns the question around asking them the same, and they saw how difficult it was to answer. He was not avoiding the truth; but rather, He wanted them to see the truth for themselves, because if they gave them the correct answer to His question, they would have their answer.

Jesus’ question had concerned authority of John the Baptist, to which, if they acknowledge John was sent by God, then Jesus had to also be sent by God, because John’s message announced the arrival of Jesus as the Messiah. As the leaders refused to answer, Jesus illustrated something to rebuke them again for their refusal to repent of their sin. He likened sinners, such as tax collectors and prostitutes to a son that at first he disobeyed his father, but then changed his mind. The sinners repented of their ill acts and wrongdoing, and therefore, they entered His Kingdom. He then likened the Pharisees to another son, who pretended in obedience, but he did not obey. The Pharisees claimed to be obedient to God; however, they had refused obedience in John’s call to repentance.

Soon, He told a Parable of Wicked Vineyard Keepers, to which this parable pictures Israel as a vineyard, God as the owner of it, and the Jewish leaders as tenants who had looked after it. Just as the tenants beat and killed the servants that the owner sent to them, this was the same way the leaders persecuted and killed God’s messengers (from the Old Testament Prophets up to John the Baptist). Now, they were about to reject God’s Son. By rejecting Him, the Jews brought punishment upon themselves; therefore, God would take away the privileges from Israel to give to the Gentiles.

Then, Jesus likened Himself as the cornerstone of a building. In rejecting Jesus, the Jews were just as the builders were who had thrown away the cornerstone. God now took this rejected stone and used it in construction of a new building—the Christian Church. This new community would be of mostly Gentiles, to which, all of it was built around and into Jesus Christ! People’s attitude toward Jesus had determined their destiny, for those that rejected Him were guaranteeing their own destruction.

He also told them that God sent His messengers to Israel, but the people just ignored them. God was as a king was who had invited people to a wedding feast for his son, but when the time of the feast arrived, they refused to come. This was just like the refusing of the Jews to accept His Message and invitation to God’s Kingdom. Their rejection of Jesus would bring God’s Judgment upon them and result in the destruction of Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, the invitation that the Jews refused went to the Gentiles instead, and this brought a great response—though only some were sincere. Some were like the man that thought he wanted to go to the feast, but was either too lazy or just too busy to prepare himself properly for it. The king issued the invitation to all, but he denied entrance to those who just wanted benefits of the feast without changing their self-centeredness. Jesus invited all to enter His Kingdom, but there was no place for those who had said they believed; however, they showed no change in attitudes or behavior.

Through these Parables, the Jewish leaders knew He was talking about them; therefore, they wanted to arrest Him, but they did not want the crowd to riot.

But “Rabbi” – What about paying tribute to Caesar?

The Herodians and Pharisees attempted to trap Jesus in yet another question, this time about Jews paying taxes to Rome. If He replied “yes,” He would be considered a traitor before the Jewish people. If He said, “no,” then the Herodians would accuse Him for treason before the Roman authorities. Jesus replied that duty to God and duty to civil authorities were not in opposition, because people owe to each a debt for services and benefits received; and thus, should give to civil authorities what is due them, and to God what is due Him!

The Sadducees ask Jesus about “resurrection”

Next, a group of Sadducees came to Jesus with a question regarding the Law of Moses, to which a man dies childless that his brother would have a temporary marital relationship with the widow to produce an heir. The question was concerning the unlikely situation where a widow would meet seven husbands, all brothers, in the resurrection. Since the Sadducees did not believe in any form of life after death, they did not intend to make fun of Jesus or the Resurrection; they really wanted to know.

He tells them their question means nothing, because Israel’s laws only apply to life in the present physical realm. Life in the age to come is not a continuation of the present, Earthly life. It is completely different overall, which is typified by something they could not deny that Jesus quoted in the book of Exodus. Moreover, long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob died, Scriptures spoke of God having a living and personal relationship with them. They must have still been living, even though their bodies were dead nad buried. Some of the Scribes were impressed by His answer, and pleased that the Sadducees were silenced.

A Pharasaic lawyer asks Jesus a legal question

A teacher of the Law asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment. Jesus answered vastly, and told them that all of the commandments of the Law could be summarized under the word, “Love.” A person’s first responsibility is to love God, and the second is to love one’s fellows. People are commanded to love, which shows that love is the primary means of doing things (not feeling), for it is an attitude of loyal obedience that governs a person’s mind, will, and emotions.

What Jesus is instructing: This shows us that the most important thing is love, and that love is the fulfilling of the Law!

Jesus silences His enemies

Some questions that people asked Him were pointless. Jews understood the messiah to be a son of David, but thought of him as a political figure that would rule Israel in a golden age. Jesus wanted to show them that this was an inadequate view, for the Messiah was far more than a son of David. He then refers the audience to Psalm 110, the one the Jews regarded as Messianic. It was written a thousand years earlier and sung by temple singers in praise of King David after his conquer of Jerusalem to establish his throne there.

However, the person who wrote such words was actually David and Jesus noted that it was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in praise of the Messiah, meaning the opening words of it where people called David, “my lord,” were the same as David expressing it to the Messiah. The Messiah, the one whom everyone knew as David’s descendant, was also David’s Lord. The Messiah was not just Earthly, but also Divine.

Some understood what He said, and did not want to ask any further trick questions. He was telling them that His work was not to revive and expand the old kingdom of Israel, but to establish the Eternal Kingdom of God—something completely different.

In His last public discourse, Jesus solemnly denounces the Scribes and Pharisees. Jesus has been criticized for lack of self-control in this exposure of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. One must bear in mind the tremendous sins of which the Pharisees are guilty. The very teachers of righteousness are now in the act of rejection and finally crucifying the Son of God!

These people desired to kill God’s Messengers, and would even kill the Messiah Himself. Therefore, God’s Judgment was coming against murderous people, including those that had not received it yet. They would live to see the place destroyed and national life ended (which is a prophecy of the 70 AD collapse on Jerusalem). In rejecting Him as the Messiah who came unto them, the Jews were rejecting their only hope (of Salvation), to which they would not experience God’s Blessing until they acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah and as their Savior!

What we must learn: We must not only keep ourselves from false teachers and false prophets, but also we should do our best not to keep others from Christ. We must minister Christ, and speak about all of His Good Works to save people! Many people will not desire Salvation, but if we encourage them anyway, we could easily sow seeds that would bring a great harvest later.

The poor widow’s gift

This was the last occurrence in the Savior’s Public Ministry, except the trial and the crucifixion. This is the last appearance of Jesus in the Temple. His public teaching is over, except for his words of defense in His trial and the seven sayings on the cross. The Pharisees and Sadducees had withdrawn in terror at the explosion of the wrath of Jesus, and even the Disciples were at some distance as Jesus sat alone by the treasury. It is useless further to plead with His enemies. The task now remains to get the Disciples prepared for the Master’s death, and the time is short. As of yet, they have completely failed to grasp the fact of the significance of His death and the promise of His Resurrection on the third day.

In one of the courts of the Temple, there were large offering containers where people dropped their gifts of monies. They were in an open places where onlookers could see how much people put inside the containers. Those who gave in abundance could easily draw attention to themselves, and Jesus had noticed that some of the rich gave generously, but there was a poor widow who gave an amount so small it was almost no value.

Jesus, however, was more concerned with how people gave rather than the amount; therefore, He considered the widows had given more than anyone else had, because He measured the gift by the degree of sacrifice of the contributor, not of its value. A heart of true commitment, not money, was a prized thing in the Kingdom.

What can we learn from her gift? We should not forget that Jesus still sees the treasury and knows how much men give to His Cause. He looks at the heart of the giver, not the amount for crying out loud, because He expects that people give based on their heart. If someone sincerely gives an amount they believe they can give, it is better than those who give just because they feel they have to (grudgingly). We should give what we feel we can give, not a set amount necessarily.

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