Read: Mark 11:12-19
Do you remember the last time you were ‘hangry?’
It’s not a pretty sight for any of us. Our stomach is in the driver’s seat and anyone that gets in the way of us tearing into the breakfast sandwich waiting for us at the drive-in window at Starbucks is just asking to get hurt. Why is this line not moving? Don’t you all have jobs to get to? That fry from last week in the back seat is starting to look appetizing…No, you can do this…just a little bit longer. Oh you’re paying with nickels, person in front of me? Awesome.
It’s Monday morning, March 30th, 33 AD and Jesus is Hungry. Jesus and his disciples are trekking over rocky terrain about a mile and a half east of Jerusalem when Jesus spots a fig tree in the distance. It’s not the season for them, but from far away it looks green and healthy, so there could be some fruit. His stomach is grumbling. As He gets closer, it’s clear that the tree has nothing to provide but disappointment. No fruit. Jesus must have been a little ‘hangry’ too because He curses it right on the spot. “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” Well that escalated quickly. Poor fig tree.
Jesus finally arrives in Jerusalem, but something isn’t quite right. The temple, the place dedicated to God, the place where some people traveled hundreds of miles to see and find comfort and direction looks like… a dishonest swap meet. There are merchandise tables selling special sacrificial animals that people need to show their devotion to God at obscurely high prices; and there are ‘money changers’ that are exchanging common currency for special temple money in order to give God honor. It’s a scam. It’s deplorable. It’s shameful.
Then Jesus starts throwing stuff. The tables, the benches, the dishonest people, everything. It all has to go. The real problem isn’t just the stuff though, it’s the people running the show. The Priests and the Teachers of the Law, the people who should know better are the problem. So Jesus throws some knowledge their way: “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” Ouch.
Here’s the point, just like the fig tree, from far away the Temple in Jerusalem looks like it will provide for people. They should be able to find hope, connection to God, comfort – fruit for their soul, if you will. But like the fig tree, up close and personal, it’s a disappointment. The fig tree was a symbol for Israel, for the nation (Jer. 8:13; Hos. 9:10, 16; Joel 1:7). Jesus really wasn’t cursing the fig tree, He was cursing the whole religious order of Israel. The Temple, the Priests, the religious traditions, the shallow religion – it all had to go. But in the minds of the Chief Priests and the Teachers of the law, it was Jesus who had to go. So they ‘began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.’ They were losing the crowds, they weren’t about to lose their religion and their positions of influence as well. Jesus has to go.
Further Reading: Matthew 23:1-36
Prayer: Father, help me understand that religion doesn’t please you. You’re done with that. Help direct my heart and my thoughts to you as a follower of your son Jesus Christ. Jesus was angry for a good reason – religion will never make a way for us to get close to you. You’ve already done that in your son Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth and the life. Help me pay attention when I’m ‘hangry’ or something else is wrong. They may be warning signs that something isn’t quite right that I need to address. God I am hungry for more than food, I am in need of a relationship with you, feed me with your truth, your compassion and your attention.