These reflections help us look into the Bible to discover what God is saying to us today. We find Bible passages to read and questions to ponder. The themes are in the process of being listed in an index with each theme ultimately divided into seven sections. We hope to be completed soon.
“… say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,” (v.9) RSV
Last week we read of Jesus’ anger at the money changers in the Temple. Today we read of Jesus cursing the fig tree. Is our understanding of Jesus starting to change? Have we always thought that he was a rather generous ‘push-over’? Have we been taught that he only did and said ‘nice’ things? Well, the scriptures bear witness to a somewhat alarming toughness about Jesus.
Often people would not ask him questions because his answer might be more than they bargained for. People came up to Jesus and said: “Teacher, we know that you are true, and teach the way of God truthfully, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men.” (Matthew 22:16). In other words Jesus would speak his mind, and that can be an unnerving thing. Don’t ask him a question if you are not prepared for an honest answer!
Anyway, Jesus cannot be boxed up and he is not ‘safe’. Today we see him enacting a parable by cursing a fig tree. The fig tree was sacrificed for a higher purpose. God requires no less of us; we too serve his loving plan and purpose; it may cost us dearly.
One of the purposes of the cursing was to demonstrate the authority given to his followers. If we speak in accordance with his will then we speak with his authority. We cooperate with him to bring about great things. We can even “say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea’.” (v.9). We are God’s agent to speak forth his word with authority. See what Matthew also records about moving a mountain: “… if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain …” (Matthew 17:20).
Lord, I have often restricted what you have been able to do through me. Help me to believe your promises and the promptings of your Spirit, and to speak forth your word. Amen.
Anger is one of the Christian virtues! Not of course selfish, uncontrolled and destructive anger, but anger against injustice and corruption. Anger and love are two sides of the same coin. Love does not stand by and do nothing when the poor or innocent are downtrodden.
Now exactly how that anger is expressed and to whom it is addressed is very important. Jesus went into the Temple and dealt face to face with the perpetrators of the problem. He did not rant on to his disciples about it or go and sneak to Pilate. He simply took a comparatively non-violent weapon (a whip of cords – John 2:15), and also took his righteous tongue. He lashed with whip and words.
This was a highly charged protest. Jesus was incensed with the way that the Temple had been commandeered by racketeers and profiteers so that the ordinary person in the street, far from being able to worship and pray, was being fleeced. “My (Father’s) house shall be called a house of prayer (Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11); but you make it a den of robbers.” The anger of our Lord was focused and purposeful. Whether it was effective or not is not recorded. I doubt if it made any long term difference but it was effective as a prophetic message.
We have been told to be witnesses and prophets whether people listen or not. More often than not the Church is ignored. Isaiah was ignored and so was Jeremiah. But as Ezekiel was told (Ezekiel 3:18) if he did not speak up then the guilt of those whom he had not warned would be on his head. It is our duty to live in such a way that our lives are not only beautiful but also a (silent) rebuke.
Lord, forgive me when I melt into the background like a chameleon. Help me not to be ashamed of Jesus and his Gospel. Help me to stand up for the truth. Amen.
1 Did Jeremiah find it easy to speak up for God?
2 Was Isaiah’s ministry successful in his lifetime?
“… the crowds … shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’” (v.9) RSV
Oh, the fickleness of our friends or our admirers. How we long for people who will love us and stick by us. Jesus “knew what was in man” (John 2:25). He was not fooled or swayed by the praises of men and women. Of course he benefitted from the support of his disciples. Remember how in the Garden of Gethsemane he wanted them to watch in prayer with him. How it would have helped and strengthened him. Yet, he was not dependent on them. If all else failed he would find the strength he needed from his Father and from within himself.
So as he rode into Jerusalem he was not buoyed up by the crowd’s joyous praises and affirmations. Instead, as you can read in Luke’s account, he wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44). Far from being puffed up with popularity; he knew how the crowds would turn on him, and how the powers (both secular and religious) in the capital would try to exterminate his ministry; that is why he wept. But he did not weep for himself and what he would suffer; he wept for those who through their fickleness were now cheering him but who would soon turn and reject the truth, the truth that could have set them free.
How distressing it is when those whom we love and pray for think that they are doing just fine, yet we know that all is not well. They are lost. It makes our heart grieve within us. We plead with God for them, we agonise on their behalf, we try to reason with them and warn, and yet all to no avail. Part of the agony of Holy Week or the ‘Via Dolorosa’ for Jesus was the pain and consequences that others would suffer through their rejection of him.
We are in good company when we feel this way. We have a high priest (Jesus – see Hebrews 4:14) who knows exactly why we weep. He intercedes with us and will strengthen us to carry on praying and loving those who as yet continue to reject.
Lord, keep me from cheering you one day and rejecting you the next. May I be faithful and true. May I support you and your cause through thick and thin. Amen.