Watching Jesus Right some Wrongs
In our scripture reading today we are going to hear what seems to be two very different stories that could stand alone.
Our reading today begins with a beautiful but fruitless tress.
Then follows Jesus into the temple area
where he cleanses it for the second time
objecting to what shouldn’t be there
objecting to what shouldn’t happen there
And then returns to the end of the fig tree and gives a lesson on prayer.
Are these stories related?
They both show Jesus
objecting to what was going on
and doing something about it.
The vainglorious fig tree was cursed and died.
The temple practices were challenged
and changed, at least as long as Jesus was around to keep things right.
I wonder what practices we commonly accept that we should not?
Let’s turn in our bibles to Mark 11 starting at verse 12 and going through verse 25 or 26.
A Fruitless Tree
A Fruitless Tree
12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.
In AD 33 Passover would have happened in early April, early spring for the region.
In that region you might expect a fig tree to have a good covering of leaves and ripe figs
I called the fig tree vainglorious because,
way ahead of it’s neighbors,
it was fully leafed out,
without a bit of fruit.
If a person was all show about being a Christian,
talked up their christian life
but had no fruit in their lives
They just might be as barren as this leafy fig tree.
So in a very non-dramatic way
Jesus removed God’s blessing from this tree.
This is the only time we know of that Jesus power used
in a negative way.
We will come back to the fig tree after we read about what Jesus did at the Temple
was a huge structure.
In the lower Center they put a small rectangle to represent a football field compared to the temple grounds.
The large area left and right of the Jewish only section was the court of the Gentiles and was as close as they were allowed to come toward the altar and the holy of holies.
But over time business had moved into that area.
Who cares about those foreigners anyway?
Fruitless Changes in Temple worship
Fruitless Changes in Temple worship
Well let’s read on and see what Jesus does
see what Jesus has to say.
Let’s back up just a little to the day before, the day of Jesus Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem
11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
That was on Sunday
So on Monday, Jesus enters the city again,
this time with no fanfare
and he goes to the temple.
15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “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.’” 18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
This is the second time Jesus cleaned the temple.
The first time was in
13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.
That was 2 years ago but the leaders in Jerusalem hadn’t learned their lessons.
Without Jesus there complaining, they went right back to selling sacrificial animals there.
they went back to doing the money exchanging there
and not caring that this courtyard area was supposed to be dedicated to prayer, and the area for foreign converts.
You might ask
Dave, where did Jesus get the idea that the temple should be a house of prayer for all nations?
And if you asked me, I would direct you to Isaiah 56:7.
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
A house of prayer for
not just the Jews
but the people they were overlooking
the people they were leaving out.
Where does the allusion to a Den of Thieves come from
Consider for a minute Jeremiahs prophecy
9 “ ‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things? 11 Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord. 12 “ ‘Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling for my Name, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel. 13 While you were doing all these things, declares the Lord, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer. 14 Therefore, what I did to Shiloh I will now do to the house that bears my Name, the temple you trust in, the place I gave to you and your ancestors. 15 I will thrust you from my presence, just as I did all your fellow Israelites, the people of Ephraim.’
It was wicked of them to take away the gentiles place at the temple
It was wicked of them to insisted that only the local coin could be accepted as an offering and then charge excessive rates to exchange the offering.
It was wicked of them to charge excessive rate for Kosher animals to sacrifice.
So what have we seen Jesus do in regards to the temple?
We saw him check things out the evening before this
after the triumphal entry
We saw Him correct was was being done wrong
turned over the money changes tables
cleared the animals out of the temple area
He also objected to everyone trying you use the temple as a shortcut across town.
And then he began teaching.
When Jesus identifies something wrong in our lives,
he’s going to seek change in our lives by the Holy Spirit’s conviction
and he is going to use his Word and His Spirit to teach us
a better way to live.
Prayer Power revealed
Prayer Power revealed
19 When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city. 20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!” 22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
A more literal translation of verse 19 would be
When evening comes, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city
And that is what he did every night of Holy week.
That is part of how he kept his band of believers safe until the night of his betrayal.
He took them out, away from the city each evening.
So on Tuesday, when they walk back into town,
Peter sees the tree Jesus cursed
And it’s very dead.
Jesus uses this observation to point out some truths about prayer
23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
That is a great promise,
What we pray and earnestly believe will happen.
It sounds almost like, prosperity gospel
name it, claim it gospel but
That is not the full story on prayer.
Even here Jesus tells his disciples about something that will hinder our prayers
25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Forgiveness will hinder our prayers.
Can you think of anything else?
How you treat others,
will hinder your prayers
7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
It says treat your spouse with respect.
or your prayers will be hindered.
Our prayers are hindered when we pray with bad motives
and many other things hinder our prayers.
But the example of the dead fig tree focused on power of belief in God when we pray
when our prayers are not hindered by doubt.
Depending upon what version of bible you read, you may or may not see Mark11.26
26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.
This verse spells out a little more clearly, how un-forgiveness will hinder our prayers.
Why isn’t the verse in many of our bibles?
Because we have older source documents now, that don’t include that verse, so
it is assumed that someone added it for clarity at some point and it caught on.
It really doesn’t change the truth about how un-forgiveness effects our prayers, whether we include the verse or not.
Fruitless Trees and Fruitless changes in worship
Fruitless Trees and Fruitless changes in worship
Today, we have looked at two incidents in our passage that seem un-related
How do these stories relate
They are both disappointments in God’s eyes
that had to be addressed.
The fig tree leafed out way early and had not a bit of fruit on it,
and Jesus rebuked it, like he would a vainglorious person.
No that’s wrong, harsher then he would a person
who didn’t have fruit in their lives
And Jesus came to the temple,
and things were not being done right
I don’t know if he made another whip
but he knocked over the tables
he drove out the sellers of animals and
he didn’t even let the delivery guys use the temple as a shortcut across town
All to restore the common area.
the area for everyone, especially foreigners to draw near to God and pray
and he taught the people there.
I found this story about a mans Clair Sauer’s grandfather who was a pastor in the south in 1963.
A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS - a wrong corrected.
In 1963, Clair's grandfather was serving as the Senior Minister of West End United Methodist Church in Nashville.
West End is situated right across the street from Vanderbilt University, and has always been a wealthy, predominately white church.
One communion Sunday, a black family happened to be worshipping at West End,
and like the rest of the congregation,
they came forward to receive the meal.
Without a sidelong thought,
Clair’s grandfather served them the bread and juice just as he did the rest of the congregation.
Now, as you know, the Southern U.S. in 1963 was caught up in the height of the Civil Rights movement.
And as soon as church dismissed that day, the Administrative Board went into a meeting.
A few hours later, they called Clair’s grandfather into the room,
and though my grandfather was greatly liked by all the people of West End,
they asked for his immediate resignation because he served communion to blacks.
Clair’s grandfather told the gathered group that if that was really the way they felt,
then he was not the right minister for them anyway.
In stunned silence, the members of the board said nothing more.
They knew my grandfather was the right pastor for West End at that time, and they knew that he was right.
Clair’s grandfather stayed at West End for many more years,
and in that time, other blacks came to worship there as well.
Here is a light that illumined a darkness of our world.
(From a sermon by Clair Sauer, A Signpost and a Dash of Salt, 2/2/2011)
Though it could have cost him his Job and livelihood
that pastor was not about to let the status quo continue and he shared communion with
all who would come.
Even though that was an un-popular thing to do.
Today as we close in prayer,
I wounder what everyday practices should be challenged
Should be reconsidered in the light of Jesus teaching
be called out as sin
and repented of.