To truly celebrate Easter, we must pause to consider what the week leading up to Easter was like for Jesus. Each day I will give you some thoughts from a study of that Gospel of Mark to help you get started. I missed yesterday, so here is both Monday and Tuesday.
CURSING THE FIG TREE
Jesus pronounced God’s judgement on the unbelieving Jews by cursing a fig tree. It was supposed to have buds on it, but did not. It had the green leaves that from a distance promised this simple nourishment. But the promise was empty, so Jesus cursed it.
The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 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. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it. Mark 11:12–14 (NIV)
CLEANSING THE TEMPLE
Jesus then went into the Temple and drove the money changers and sellers of animals from the outer court of the Temple. It was the only area that non-Jewish people could worship, but it had been turned into a marketplace and a short cut so that it was impossible to worship. Jesus’ anger exploded into violent removal.
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area 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, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 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.’” Mark 11:15–17 (NIV)
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
When Jesus cleansed the Temple, He was claiming He had greater authority than the Jewish High Priest. Thus the gauntlet was thrown down. As a result, the Jewish leaders started looking for a way to kill Jesus.
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. When evening came, they went out of the city. Mark 11:18–19 (NIV)
NOTE: Mark 12:1-14:11 (appear to all happen on Tuesday, with no mention of anything on Wednesday. The Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John are the same. It appears nothing was recorded about Wednesday, so I’m going to break Tuesday into two parts. It is just as well because so much happened.
Ponder a moment: if you had only three days left, and you knew today was the final day of telling your followers what matters, what would you say? Jesus spent the day jousting with the Jewish religious leaders and teaching. It was the last day of teaching the crowds recorded, so we can assume these were important lessons. Here are just a few highlights. I encourage you to read the chapters for yourself.
It was an exhausting day for Jesus. On the hot seat with religious leaders, the intensity of last words He wanted to impart, the plot to kill Him hanging over His head, and always the knowledge that He was headed to the most CRUEL DEATH in three days.
BACK TO THE FIG TREE
On the way into Jerusalem, the disciples notice the fig tree is shriveled from the roots up. Amazed, they bring to Jesus’ attention. He responds nonchalantly:
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:22–25 (NIV)
TRAPS SET BY THE JEWISH AUTHORITES
“Where do you get your authority?” Jesus was asked where He got His authority. He refused to answer because they would not answer His question about John the Baptist’s authority
“Should we pay taxes to Roman government?” If He says yes, He is in trouble with the Jews. If He says no, He is in trouble with Rome. So He says,
Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him. Mark 12:17 (NIV)
“How can you claim there is a resurrection?” the Sadducees (one branch of the Jewish leaders) asked. Jesus shows them the next life if not like this one and we have different bodies and different relationships.
“What is the greatest commandment?” This was not a trap, but a sincere inquiry. Because of it we have the MEANING OF LIFE.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30–31 (NIV)
NO MORE TRAPS, JESUS THEN TEACHES
After Jesus turned the traps on them, no one dared ask Him any other questions. However, it made the Jewish leaders even more intent to kill Him.
Jesus taught important lessons on His identity, generosity (the widow’s offering), what will happen in the future, and that NO ONE KNOWS WHEN HE WILL RETURN. That last one is especially important for us.
Ponder on these things and thank Him as you think of Jesus' last week.