This passage begins with Jesus and His disciples heading to the temple on the Monday of Holy Week. Jesus is hungry and stops by a fig tree to get some fruit. "He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And He said to it, 'May no one ever eat fruit from you again.'"
Jesus and His disciples then entered the temple. There were specific areas of the temple where different people could be. The most outer courts were known as the Courts of the Gentiles. Gentiles could not go past these courts, as the other courts were for Jews only. Paul called this a "dividing wall of hostility." Merchants set up in the Courts of the Gentiles and there was no room for the people of the nations due to the merchants wares and setups. Extortion was taking place in these courts because worshippers had to buy their temple sacrifices from the merchants. These merchants were making a lot of money and the priests had set up a religion that crowded out the Gentiles.
Jesus comes in and turns over the tables and drives out the merchants and money-changers. More than that, He taught the people there, "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." This is Jesus' story, and He cleans up His own house so that the religious Jews couldn't crowd out the Gentiles. He loves ALL. Read Ephesians 2:11-22.
On Monday of Holy Week, Jesus turned over the tables.
On Thursday of Holy Week, Jesus created a new table with room for everyone.
On Friday of Holy Week, He opened the curtain to let out the mercy of God to the ends of the earth.
Ezekiel 47 shows a vision of water trickling out of the threshold of the temple. This water flows towards the nations and gets deeper and deeper until it turns the Dead Sea into a fresh body of water teaming with fish. On the banks of both sides of the river will be trees that will bear fresh fruit every month, "because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing." Revelation 22 also speaks of the river, the 12 types of fruit, and the leaves of healing. The number 12 represents the people of God throughout the Scripture.
Jesus made His way to the fig tree first to start His lesson. Jesus often called His people HIs "fig tree". (Hosea 9) He knew that His people were not being a blessing. They had become elitist and discriminating towards the Gentiles. The withered tree shows their lack of fruit and life for the Kingdom of God. He gets them back on the right path by cleaning His temple.
You are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus wants you clean. If we want to participate in His mission, we must start with forgiveness. Our role to play is forgiveness (Mark 11:25). Unforgiveness is our biggest hinderance to our prayers. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." ( 1 John 1:9)
Jesus leads with forgiveness on the cross. When we can forgive, we can love, and that is an oasis for the world around us.
As we reflect today, here are a few questions to discuss:
- How do we, in the American church, conduct our religious affairs in such a way that hinders those around us from knowing Jesus?
- Where do we market Christianity that makes it more difficult for the world to come to Jesus?
- Where do you need to show forgiveness today? Take time to ask for that forgiveness and get your temple clean so that you can be an oasis to a watching world.