Man in Charge
As we enter the last week of Jesus’ ministry prior to His death, burial, and resurrection we get an amazing glimpse into what is most important to Him. Jesus’ interactions with the Jewish religious establishment of the day was about to intensify in the days to come. That intensity is due in large part because of the divide over who holds the authority of the things of God. In Mark 11:12-12-12, we will see Jesus exert His authority over the current religious leaders, who had become unfruitful in their leadership, in order to bring people back to faith in God.
Let’s begin by looking at Mark 11:12-14, 12 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14And he said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard it. Jesus is using this fig tree as a visual aid for his disciples. It represents something else. Jesus finds this tree not doing its job and as a result it is causing him to be hungry. The tree should have had small nubs that were the precursor of the figs on them prior to the leaves coming in. Often travelers would eat these pre-figs during their journeys. But this tree had leaves, but there was nothing edible there. The fig tree is not working as it should. Because there were no “nubs” meant that the fig tree was not only useless now, but it would not bring in figs in the weeks to come either. It was a fruitless tree. Jesus, who has been so calm, cool, and collected at in the face of so many other circumstances, loses His cool here. Why? Because the tree represents what He has found in the nation of Israel, and beyond that, anyone who claims to be God’s people who do not bear fruit for him. We see this metaphor for Israel in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, chapter 2, verses 20-22, 20"For long ago I broke your yoke and burst your bonds; but you said, 'I will not serve.' Yes, on every high hill and under every green tree you bowed down like a whore. 21 Yet I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine? 22Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me declares the Lord GOD. Jesus, the very Son of God, in the authority of His Father had come to provide redemption for those who were far from God. What He found were people who claimed to be followers of God, but they lacked any fruit. They had forsaken God for religion. Jesus expects that the OUTWARD DISPLAY of RELIGION would be superseded by the SPIRITUAL FRUIT of RIGHTEOUSNESS! That is what Jesus came to do. He came to redeem a people for Himself, who would bear fruit that comes from Him. Spiritual fruit is the outgrowth of faith at work in our lives (love, joy, peace, kindness, self-control, humility). Big Idea: A FOLLOWER of Jesus Christ bears FRUIT through FAITH! We are not just to put on a religious show, looking like we have fruit, but the fruit of God should be overflowing from us for the glory of God and the good of those around us. Jesus’ frustration with the fig tree represents the frustration that He has for all those who claim to follow, yet their faith is not genuine. They disrespect His person and work. Does that sound like your life? To most people you appear to be genuine. But what if you were examined closer? What if you were followed around for a week? Would Jesus find fruit, or have you grown adept at giving the appearance of fruit from a distance?
The incidents to follow give us great insight into has Jesus deals with the fruitlessness that He finds in Israel. We find at least four ways How we can Avoid Shriveling Up in our Faith.
First, Let Jesus CLEAN OUT the CLUTTER of your life. Mark 11:15-19, 15 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17And he was teaching them and saying to them, "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." 18And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. 19 And when evening came they went out of the city. The temple cleansing is a fulfillment of Malachi 3:1-3. Moses commanded that folks were to purchase sacrifices conveniently, so the purchasing of sacrifices was not the impetus for Jesus’ actions. There seem to be two reasons for Jesus’ abrupt behavior: 1) the Gentile court was not functioning as intended: it was supposed to be a house of worship and instead these worshippers were being crowded out by merchandisers, and 2) It was supposed to be primarily a place of worship, not primarily a marketplace. Jesus enters the temple fully expecting to find fruit there (if any place is going to produce spiritual fruit, this temple certainly would). When He finds none, Jesus responds in righteous anger.
Second, Lean on God in PRAYER for the POWER for your life. Mark 11:20-25 20 As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21And Peter remembered and said to him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered." 22And Jesus answered them, "Have faith in God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and thrown into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses." Jesus is here giving a summons to faith and to action consistent with one’s faith. Jesus mentions two specific fruits of genuine faith in these verses: Prayer and forgiveness—two of the most difficult fruits to counterfeit. Incidentally, the first fruit Jesus describes (namely, prayer) is the primary fruit He found missing at the temple (“My house will be called a house of prayer . . .”). Just as a pulse is the sign of a heartbeat, so fruit is the sign of internal spiritual life. We know from the life of Christ and our own lives that DEPENDANT TRUST in God can accomplish what is HUMANLY IMPOSSIBLE. The book of James tells us that The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Perhaps you should take some time today to do some fruit inspection in your life. Are you skilled at appearing fruitful from a distance, or does a closer examination reveal true, lasting fruit? If not, then you must get on your knees and seek God to work through the power of prayer to bring life to your fruitless branches.
Third, Look to Jesus as the ABSOLUTE AUTHORITY in your life. Mark 11:27-33, 27 And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, 28and they said to him, "By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?" 29Jesus said to them, "I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me." 31And they discussed it with one another, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say, 'Why then did you not believe him?' 32But shall we say, 'From man'?"— they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. 33So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And Jesus said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things." Jesus exposes the “illusion” of many in the first century had that they possessed ultimate authority. This is a demonstration of judgment by the One who has authority to judge. Four times in this passage the word authority appears. There are those who seem to be in authority, and God who is in fact in authority. These three groups mentioned together—the chief priests, the experts in the law, and the elders—make up the Sanhedrin. It is the legislative Jewish body—the highest Jewish authority. They ask where Jesus received authority to act with such boldness in cleansing the temple (this same Sanhedrin will sentence Him to death this very week). After saying that He would not answer their inquiry, Jesus proceeds to answer them in the form of a parable. This parable leads to the fourth key in having a fruitful life.
Fourth, Live for Jesus as a SACRIFICIAL SERVANT all of your life. Jesus uses a parable to represent the attitude and actions of Israel that were keeping them from being fruitful for God in Mark 12:1-12, 1 And he began to speak to them in parables. "A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. 2When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. In this parable, the vineyard is Israel, the owner is God, the tenant farmers are the Jewish leaders, the servants are the prophets that are sprinkled throughout Israel’s history that the leadership has always rejected (see also Acts 7:51-53).
Jesus continues the parable in verse 6, 6He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' 7But those tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' 8And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. 9What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not read this Scripture: "'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 11this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?" 12And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away. The only son is of course Jesus (literally, “beloved son”; see Mark 1:11). Here we have a veiled prediction that Jesus would be killed by the religious leadership of His day. Jesus’ authority comes from His Father who sent Him just as the son in the parable received his authority from his father. Thus Jesus was claiming higher authority than those in the Sanhedrin, who were mere renters in the unfolding plan of God. The claim of any one man to have authority greater than the Sanhedrin would have shocked a first century Jew.
- RESPECTS God, the Owner
- RECEIVES Jesus, the Son
Jesus’ supreme authority is evident through His complete control over the supposed “authorities” of Israel. Jesus has come to demand from Israel God’s due. Big Idea: A FOLLOWER of Jesus Christ bears FRUIT through FAITH! Let us not be like the “religious” people of Jesus day, who rested in their outward displays of religion, yet resisted God’s working in their hearts, souls, and minds to produce spiritual fruit which would result in glory to God and good to others. Let us admit who Jesus is, honor Him, and give Him our entire lives to use as He chooses.