Each day from Palm Sunday until Easter, we’ll publish a short devotional to help prepare your heart for Resurrection Sunday. For each devotional, we recommend opening with a short prayer for illumination, reading the text for the day, spending a few moments meditating on it, reading the devotional, and then closing with a prayer.
Jesus was back in Jerusalem, ready to take his ministry to this key city. This was Jerusalem, the earthly capital of God’s people – Israel! After his triumphant entry on a colt, Jesus walked around the city to take in the scene, and He wasn’t pleased with what He saw. What Jesus does next probably confused or even shocked His disciples.
Using a fig tree as a prop in a parable, Jesus teaches his disciples that hypocrisy and fruitlessness will not be condoned. He curses the tree, which the disciples passed and saw withered the next day. He saw fruitlessness in God’s people, the Jews. Similar to the fig tree, they had life but were not producing godly fruit. Think about Jesus, hungry for a snack, looking forward to a sweet fig fresh from the tree, only to be left unsatisfied as He walked away from a useless tree that doesn’t do what it was made to do. Jesus wasn’t crazy or stupid. Fig trees were commonplace in that region, so He knew that figs weren’t in season at the time, but He couldn’t even find edible buds to eat from this particular tree. What good is a fig tree that doesn’t feed people? What good is a believer that doesn’t produce fruit?
Jesus then takes it a step further, living out the illustration by taking the lesson to the temple. This was Jerusalem, this was the temple of temples for God and His people. This was the temple where Jesus was dedicated to the Lord as an infant by his parents – Joseph and Mary. This was the temple Jesus was found studying scripture at as a twelve-year-old after his parents lost Him on a family road trip. Yet Jesus saw, although the Father had given His people a promised earthly home so they could be a light to the nations of the world for Him, these Israelites had normalized insincere worship and squandered their witness to the world. New converts or Gentiles interested in knowing the one true God would come here to learn and possibly worship, yet they were shown a terrible example of what true worship was.
This state of sinfulness had become so condoned that the local leaders had figured out a way to make money off of a people who lacked conviction, reverence, and passion for their God. Temple leaders realized they could profit by selling a myriad of sham sacrifices or changing (and no doubt marking up) “temple currency” for pilgrims to pay the Israelite temple tax. They were taking what was meant to be the Lord’s and making a personal profit off of it. The buyers, or “fake worshippers”, were taking the easy way out. They weren’t going through the trouble of rearing, traveling with, and preparing an unblemished animal sacrifice from their own household. Instead, they settled for the convenience of a “temple approved” gift shop selling animals for sacrifice. It’s like a young man taking his date to a vending machine for dinner instead of a nice restaurant. Worshipping God in full was not a priority, they simply wanted to be seen at church, doing the right things, then free to go about their lives.
Jesus condemns self-centeredness and insincere worship. Jesus came to call out unfruitfulness and hypocrisy. He came to disrupt and turn the tables on “fake worship” to the one true God (Amos 5 even predicts this). Jesus proclaimed that His Father’s house of prayer had become a den of thieves because His people were stealing worship from God. Our sincere worship, sacrificial service, and unashamed witness to God’s kingdom is the sweet fruit that Jesus desires – it’s what we exist for. Since Christ’s resurrection, the temple is now in us, and our daily walk and witness are the true measure of our worship. When Jesus peers inside, does He see a life that is self-serving and focused on the temporal or does He see true devotion to the one true God? Does He find a barren heart, or does He find fruit? Does He find a heart focused on reaching the lost or a heart that steals worship from God?
What ways do you attempt to make your worship to Christ convenient instead of sacrificial?
In what areas of your life would Christ find fruitlessness? Are you being and doing what He made you and redeemed you to be and do?
Written by Kyle Hurlburt