In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. (Matthew 21:18-19)
And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” (Mark 11:15, 17)
MONDAY: The Appearance of Fruitfulness
These two events happened on the Monday before Jesus’s death.
If you’re like me, you may read these two encounters and wonder what’s up with Jesus? Was He having a bad case of the “Mondays”? Perhaps the disciples thought He was simply “hangry” (hungry + angry).
Let’s consider His response to the fig tree. A healthy fig tree typically produces leaves and fruit at the same time, and under the right circumstances can even do so out of season. While this tree appeared promising from a distance, it offered nothing but inedible leaves. The disciples had to be a bit shocked at Jesus’s response! But in true Jesus fashion, when He cursed the barren tree, He was speaking to so much more. Had the disciples been able to view this moment with spiritual eyes, they would understand He was also referring to Israel, a nation unfruitful despite being given every advantage.
Unbeknownst to His disciples, Jesus was just getting started. They arrive at the temple. Can you picture this scene? I love visualizing this side of Jesus, fired up to the point where doves and money were flying, tables overturned, chairs tossed as people ran for the doors! Yet all His motives were pure. Every single one. As I take in this moment of holy zeal, I’m struck by the jealous love He demonstrated for His Father’s house. Similar to the fig tree, the temple appeared fruitful at first glance. Preparations were being made for Passover, and clearly there was much religious activity. But Jesus could see there was no real fruit. It was merely religious commotion, often for personal gain, which was worthless. Jesus would not stand for it!
As we examine Jesus’s journey to the cross, may we each ask ourselves a few questions. Am I bearing fruit? Am I allowing Him to produce the spiritual fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22)? Is there real fruit or just the appearance of fruit? That stings a bit. Few set out to be unfruitful, but if we don’t constantly align our hearts and motives to His, we can quickly fall into the trap of building a “good” appearance and miss His goodness. Our lives can readily display religious activity while our hearts remain unengaged as we offer nothing of real, Gospel substance. When I picture Jesus storming the temple, something inside me aches, because I’ve been on both sides of this scenario. Cleansing can be painful, but we must continue to ask that He mold us into a people that display the fruit of truly knowing Him. “God, make us the house of prayer You’ve called us to be, bearing fruit as we abide in You. May we not settle for an appearance of fruitfulness when being with You births real life and tangible fruit that change us and bless others.”
To Him be the Glory! Amen.