This week, in place of our normal one chapter per day rhythm, we will follow along chronologically throughout Holy Week and read what Jesus did each day throughout the week that changed the world forever. For an overview of Holy Week, you can refer back to this video to help you set the scene if you missed yesterday’s reading. Thanks for reading along with us this week!
Read Mark 11:12-19
Jesus Curses a Fig Tree and Clears the Temple Courts
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.
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.
19 When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.
This section of Scripture represents the second day of Holy Week in Mark’s gospel. The day before, Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey as King, with the Jewish people praising and worshiping Him. However, this day is stark and possibly confusing. Let’s examine the context for the deeper meaning.
Why would Jesus curse a fig tree in verses 12-14? Jesus was always teaching with purpose, and the end of verse 14 states, “His disciples heard him say it.” The fig tree was often symbolic of Israel in Scripture, and a fruitful fig tree symbolized blessing. Leaves on a fig tree were typically present when there was fruit as well. From far away, this tree would appear to be fruitful, but upon closer inspection, there was no fruit. This fig tree represented how Israel would appear religious on the outside, but actually bore no spiritual fruit. While fruit is not required for salvation, it is evidence that a relationship with Jesus exists. John 15:5 says that if we remain in Jesus, we will bear much fruit.
Next, in verses 15-17, Jesus enters the temple and begins to overturn tables and drive out those who were buying and selling there. Verse 17 clearly states why Jesus would do this: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it a den of robbers.” The temple had become a place of dishonest gain and extortion. Specifically, Jewish leaders had allowed, and even encouraged, a marketplace to develop in the place where Gentiles were able to come and pray, in the outer courts of the temple. Jesus not only displayed his authority here to judge the actions and motives of the Jewish people, but he also restored the temple’s court into the house God intended it to be for everyone.
Jesus knew where his actions would lead—the Pharisees would want to kill him as a result. Let’s not take lightly the lesson Jesus gives us in one of his last days before He is crucified. As this second day ends in verse 19, let us consider his warning. Do our lives reflect an outward display of counterfeit religion or fruit from a close relationship with our Savior?
Do you see evidence of fruit in your life? Reference the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.
James 2:26 states that “faith without works is dead.” What do you think this passage means? Consider the truth in Ephesians 2:8-10 when answering.
Do you need to confess and change anything in your life in response to reading this passage?