Good morning Summit Family,
It is Tuesday morning of Holy Week. Jesus knows He only has a few days to be with His disciples. By the end of the week, He will be arrested, tried and crucified. He must have felt a strong sense of urgency to provide as much discipleship as possible in the few days remaining.
Matthew records that early in the morning Jesus and His disciples return to Jerusalem. They pass a fig tree, which has leaves, but no fruit on it and Jesus says, “May you never bear fruit again!” Upon which the tree immediately withers. (21:18-19)
There are a variety of perspectives as it relates to the message Jesus was attempting to convey. To some, it is a statement to those who profess Christ and look good on the outside, but do not bear any “fruit” for the kingdom. Bearing fruit should be a goal of believers, but I think Jesus is using the example to teach His disciples about faith. If you remember our study in James, he shared that if we ask God for wisdom BELIEVING he will grant it, God will give it to us generously.
Matthew records that Jesus uses the withered fig tree to remind His disciples of the value of having a mature faith. “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea, and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (21-22)
Later, Jesus and His disciples return to the temple where the chief priests and the elders question his authority. They are attempting to find fault with Him so they can have Him arrested. Christ uses this opportunity to share the parable of the two sons (12:28-32) and the evil farmers (33-41), drawing attention to the fate of those who do not produce fruit for the Kingdom of God. “Therefore, I tell you that the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce fruit (the fig tree). Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces (the stone the builders rejected that became the cornerstone – Jesus); anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” (43-44)
He continues His teaching through the parable of the wedding banquet. Again, it contrasts those who respond out of faith as opposed to those who are “righteous” in their own eyes. When wedding guests attended a wedding, it was customary for the guests to be given garments to wear to the wedding. It was unthinkable that guests would refuse to wear those garments. Being unwilling to wear the garments would have been an insult to the host because it suggested either those guests considered what they were already wearing better than the garments being offered (they were arrogant) or that they didn’t think they needed the garments. It could also mean they did not want to take part in the wedding celebration. The wedding garments in this parable correspond to the righteousness God wishes to use to clothe His followers. Refusal to accept God’s righteousness because of our individual pride and arrogance will result in losing the privilege of joining Christ at His wedding feast.
His debates with the religious leaders continue. They question Jesus bout the resurrection. (v 23-33) and His answer astonishes the crowds. Later, He is questioned about the greatest commandment. His answer – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (37-40)
Confrontations with the religious leaders continue throughout the day. Jesus provides warnings to them: “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (23:12) He condemns them: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and the Pharisees, you hypocrites. You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves to not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (23:13-14)
It must have been difficult moving through the city, observing the lack of spiritual commitment that existed in the religious leaders and more than likely, the average citizen. Jesus’ grief over the condition is recorded by Matthew: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate.” (23:37-39)
In spite of the rejection Christ experienced from the chief priests and Pharisees, He continued teaching his disciples. As the day progresses, He shares the Olivet Discourse, a prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the age. He is consistent in using parables as He continues teaching. Using symbolic language, He teaches about His return, the end times, and the final judgement.
It has been a long day and Jesus has been busy taking advantage of every moment available to be obedient to the Father. Unfortunately, He is not the only person who has been active. It is believed that it was Tuesday when Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests indicating his willingness to deliver Jesus to them.
Tomorrow we will take a look at what has been referred to as “silent Wednesday.”
Have a blessed day!