Mark 11:11-21. The fig tree had it coming.

And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 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. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

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. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And 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.” And 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. And when evening came they went out of the city.

As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.””

 Jesus has finally entered Jerusalem, acclaimed by the crowds and set at the head of an excited procession. The crowd all think that the end of history has arrived. They think that Jesus is the Jehu-like king, come to sweep away the old order. They think that it’s tabernacles time, time to rest and enjoy the full harvest. They think Jesus is the king of Ps 118, coming into Jerusalem to be crowned and to reign forever.

But Jesus is aware that his work is far from over. In one sense, his work is just about to begin. He has come at Passover time, not at tabernacles time, and he has come to die as a sacrifice for sinners.

1.      Jesus did many miracles in the course of his ministry. Why did he do them?

2.      Do you notice the structure of this passage? It’s chronological rather than thematic. Two stories are interwoven. What are the disciples supposed to learn from this?

3.      Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, went to the temple, “looked around at everything”, and then left the city for the night. The impression given is that looking around at everything in the temple was the big item on the agenda for the day. Why?

4.      After causing havoc in the temple, Jesus taught the crowds (v17). What did he teach them?

5.      In what way are the cursing of the fig tree and the destruction in the temple linked?

6.      What does this miracle, in which Jesus curses a fig tree, point to? (Hint: Of what is a fig tree a picture?)

7.      How should we apply these things to ourselves?

1.      Jesus did many miracles in the course of his ministry. Why did he do them?

Jesus did many many miracles. We read details of only a carefully selected few  in the Gospels, but we often read that Jesus was in a village or town, and that the people brought all their sick to him, and he healed them all. Over the course of his ministry, Jesus must have healed literally thousands of sick people, and driven out countless demons. And it wasn’t just healing and driving out demons. At various points he turned water into wine; walked on water; commanded the wind and waves; took bread and fish and multiplied them just like that; and raised the dead.

All of these things, Jesus did as signs. In the Gospels the miracles are often called “signs”- semeia in the Greek (which is where we get our word “semaphore”). John especially likes using this word to describe them (e.g. John 2:11, 2:18, 2:23, 3:2, 4:48, 4:54, 6:2, 6:14, 6:26, 6:30, 7:31, 9:16, 10:41, 11:47, 12:18, 12:37, 20:30). When the Pharisees want to see a miracle, they come to Jesus saying “show us a sign from heaven” (Mk 8:11). Paul will later call the doing of wonders and supernatural things, “signs of an apostle” (2 Cor 2:12).

A sign points to something. If you see a sign to the airport, it is there to tell you where to find the airport. You are not meant to sit around admiring the sign- you are supposed to go and find the airport. The sign is just a pointer. So to what do the miracles point? How are these specific miracles signs, and what do they signify?

It is more than just power or authority. Obviously, the miracles do show Jesus’ power and authority. The crowds recognise that this man commands even the unclean spirits; he speaks to them and they obey him. They are amazed. But if all that was meant to be signified was Jesus’ power and authority, then some of the miracles could have been very different. Jesus could have commanded a tree to uproot itself and fly around above the heads of the crowds- that would certainly be impressive. When he met a demonised man, he could have commanded the demon to make the man dance a jig- that would have demonstrated authority over even the unclean spirits, just as much as commanding the demon to leave the man. But those things aren’t what Jesus did. And it is hard to imagine him ever doing them. The miracles Jesus did were signs on another level too. They were demonstrations of power, but they were much more than that.

The signs that Jesus did were signs of the kingdom of God. They were to show that that the kingdom had arrived, and that Jesus was the king. They were, in fact, mini-invasions of God’s kingdom into a fallen world. So Jesus healed the sick, because in God’s kingdom, there is no illness. Jesus cast out demons, because there will be no evil in God’s kingdom. The miracles are a bit like manifesto statements- “This is what the kingdom of God looks like”. Jesus calmed a storm, because all creation will be ordered properly in God’s kingdom. Jesus turned water into wine because God’s kingdom is a place of rejoicing and rest. Twice he multiplied loaves and fishes to feed a hungry crowd, because God’s kingdom is a place of plenty. Jesus raised the dead to life, because God’s kingdom is life in all its fullness.

These miracles are foretastes of what is to come. The king has arrived, he is establishing his kingdom, and so there are these signs that come with its foundation. They are points where the eternal kingdom breaks in to the cursed world and so they do work as signs to show us what the kingdom will be like. When the king returns, in his Father’s glory and with the holy angels, the kingdom will come fully. The heavens and the earth will be remade. In the new heavens and the new earth, there will be no sorrow, no illness, no hunger, no death, and no demonic powers.

We need that perspective on the miracles as background, so that we ask the right questions when we come to this miracle, the cursing of the fig tree. It is plainly miraculous. Jesus pronounces a curse on the tree, one morning, and the next morning, it is blasted. It is completely dead, and Peter says “look, the tree you cursed has withered!”

Now how is a dead fig tree a sign of the kingdom? How does it show us what the kingdom will be like? Will heaven be full of dead fig trees? I think not. We’ll come back to that question, but first, we need to look at what Jesus does in Jerusalem


2.      Do you notice the structure of this passage? It’s chronological rather than thematic. Two stories are interwoven. What are the disciples supposed to learn from this?

Matthew deals with this material thematically, grouping the whole story of the fig tree together and telling it all in one chunk, even though it happened over the course of two days. But Mark wants us to be conscious of the other things going on between the fig tree bits. Mark flicks between the tree and the temple, interweaving the themes in his structure. That’s the way it happened. That would be the disciples’ experience of it. And that’s the way Mark wants us to understand it.

Events run as follows: Jesus enters Jerusalem at the head of a procession. He is acclaimed as the king who comes to bring in the kingdom promised to David. He goes straight to the temple, which is what a king would do when he came to the city to be crowned. When he gets to the temple, he doesn’t summon the high priest and have any sort of ceremony. Instead, he spends some time looking at everything in the temple. Evening falls, and Jesus leaves Jerusalem for nearby Bethany. The next morning, they walk back into Jerusalem. On the way they see this lonely fig tree which Jesus inspects, and then curses. They re-enter the city, go back to the temple, and Jesus causes mayhem and throws everything around. Jesus teaches the crowds, apparently in the middle of all this chaos. Darkness begins to fall again, and they leave the city and go back to Bethany. The next morning they go back into the city, and they pass the fig tree again. Peter comments that it has withered up.

So we go: Temple (v11), fig tree (v12-14), temple again (v15-19), and fig tree again (v20-21). Matthew’s grouping is “neater” in one sense, but Mark shows us how the disciples would have seen the events pan out. I think that both we and they are supposed to notice the similarities between the two situations. Jesus inspects the temple, and then the next morning he inspects the fig tree. Jesus curses the fig tree, and then he goes in and curses the temple both by his deeds and his teaching. And then the next morning, the fig tree is seen to be withered. There is an unmistakeably ominous implication that the temple will soon be withered also. Mark is using the structure to underline that point.

So we’re getting towards an answer as to why Jesus cursed the fig tree. It was in some sense a picture of the temple. This miracle was a sign of the kingdom of God. When God’s kingdom comes, then all the pretend kingdoms set up by men must be seen for what they are. Especially, the fake kingdom of God- made up of those Jews who rejected Jesus as King- must be exposed as a fraud.

But the choice of a fig tree wasn’t an arbitrary designation on Jesus’ part. He could have picked, say, an almond tree to curse for not bearing nuts. But he had a good reason to curse a fig tree in particular. We’ll go a bit further and look at similarities between the fig tree and the temple, and at what Jesus was actually saying about the temple. We’ll start with the temple.

3.      Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, went to the temple, “looked around at everything”, and then left the city for the night. The impression given is that looking around at everything in the temple was the big item on the agenda for the day. Why?

Jesus came to the temple as Lord of the temple.  We see in v11 that Jesus enters the temple like an OFSTED inspector enters a school. We’re explicitly told that he looked around at everything. He came in order to examine the place. What do you think he was looking for? I think he was looking for fruit; the fruit of faithfulness and righteousness. Of all the cities in Israel, you’d have thought that Jerusalem would be the place where you would find true worshippers of God. Maybe you wouldn’t expect to find faithful believers in Galilee of the Gentiles, but in Jerusalem, in the holy city, surely Jesus would find good fruit. And if you were looking for faithfulness in Jerusalem, then the first place to look would surely be the Temple. You’d expect to find God being worshipped at the Temple, God’s house. This is the place where God has commanded the people to come and make sacrifice to him. It should be a place filled with those who are worshipping God, seeking forgiveness for their sins, and praising him for his salvation. But Jesus looks carefully, and doesn’t find any of that. Instead of worship, there is a marketplace there.

The temple was divided up into sections. There was the Holy of Holies, into which the High Priest went once a year. And that was inside the Priest’s court into which all priests could go- but only priests. And then there was the court of Israel into which all male Israelites could go. Then there was the court of the women, for Israelite women, and outside all of that, was the court of the Gentiles, where Gentiles were allowed. The court of the Gentiles was meant as a place where God-fearing men from any nation could come and pray, and worship the God of Israel. But in Jesus’ day, the court of the Gentiles was packed full of animal sellers and money changers, all doing a busy noisy trade. Jesus is really searching for real worship, but all he finds is greed and noise. In fact, if you read on through the Gospel, you find that Jesus only finds one thing to commend in the temple. There’s a poor woman who puts two copper coins into the collection- the legal minimum allowed. And Jesus watches her and says “She’s put in more than all the others”. All the activity, all the bustle- it counts for nothing in Jesus’ eyes. It is worth less than two pence. It isn’t real worship.

The Lord has come to his temple. And he looks for fruit, but finds only useless leaves. The temple was in the charge of the priests. It was their job to see to the running of things, but they had abused their trust. They had allowed it to become a marketplace, and specifically, they had allowed the court of the Gentiles to become a place where it was impossible to worship God. We know what a busy town centre market is like on a warm Saturday. It’s crowded. There are people everywhere, traders shouting out prices, crowds jostling their way through. You see women with buggies having real trouble getting anywhere. And that’s in our polite English society where physical contact is not normal between strangers. Imagine what it was like in a Jewish market c. AD30. It would be very difficult to concentrate, to pray in a place like that. And the priests had allowed the temple to become that sort of place. They’d given traders permission to sell sacrificial animals there. These merchants and their stocks of animals- probably mostly pigeons, but sheep and goats and bulls as well – would have made the court of the Gentiles into a Middle Eastern marketplace. Then you’d also have the money changers. The temple had its own money, the shekel of the sanctuary (Ex 30). So the people coming to offer sacrifices would need to change the Roman coins used in Israel for temple coinage.

No doubt the priests could have made arguments in favour of what they were doing. They’d have said, “Well, it’s a pity, but I’m afraid it is necessary to have animal traders there. People have come for miles to make sacrifices, sometimes from the other end of the country. They didn’t want to bring a lamb or a goat or a bull all that way. And maybe the animal would get injured on the journey, and only spotless animals without blemish can be offered to God. It was necessary to have an animal market somewhere near the temple. It performs a valuable service”. But the priests had lost sight of the purpose of the temple. It was there as God’s house, so that people could worship him there. The temple was not meant to be a place for noisy profiteering. If there had to be an animal market in Jerusalem, why not have it somewhere else? Allowing it to take place in the Temple rendered the place noisy, crowded, and impossible to use as a place of serious devotion to God. Jesus came to inspect, and he saw only an empty show of religion. The chief priests were more interested in revenue than reverence.

And so the next morning, Jesus came back to do vengeance. He came as the Lord of the temple, to purify it; as the true priest of God, restoring the temple to what it ought to have been. Malachi prophesies “‘See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple, the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come’, says the Lord Almighty. ‘But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire’” And in Zechariah 14, we’re told that on the day of the Lord, there will be no trader in the temple of the Lord.

Jesus overturns the tables, and drives out the traders, and refuses to allow people to use his Father’s house for commerce. He seems to radiate power and authority. Nobody can stop him. All the processions, the singing, the sacrifices, would have to stop, and Jesus doesn’t care. He has seen that there’s no real worship going on in this house anyway.

4.      After causing havoc in the temple, Jesus taught the crowds (v17). What did he teach them?

“And he taught them”, Mark says in v17. From the way the narrative reads, and from the content of the teaching, it seems that this was done while still in the Temple. After Jesus had finished causing chaos- or rather, after he had finished putting a stop to the chaos that was already being caused, Jesus quietened people down and spoke to them. His teaching on this occasion centred around two passages from the prophets. “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’”, he said.

Both passages Jesus is thinking of are about the temple. The description of God’s house as a “house of prayer for all nations” is in Isaiah 56:7, and the description of it as a “den of robbers” is in Jeremiah 7:11.

Read Isaiah 56. Isaiah wrote before the exile to Babylon. But he looked forward beyond the exile, to a time when the exiles would be gathered again. He looked to a time of great blessing when God’s house would be rebuilt, and would be a place for all nations to gather for prayer. And so after the exile, Israel should have made it easy for the Gentiles to come and pray and offer worship in the temple. But Isaiah also saw blind, lazy, and greedy watchmen. The priests and elders who ran the temple had made it next to impossible for the nations to pray there, with a bazaar running in the court of the Gentiles. They were going against what God had said he wanted for his temple.

Read Jeremiah 7:1-20. Jeremiah spoke to an idolatrous people who trusted in the temple as a kind of magic talisman. They did all manner of evil, and then came to the temple to worship saying “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord”, and they thought that as long as they had the temple, God wouldn’t act to destroy them for their wickedness because he wouldn’t destroy his own temple. They thought they could get away with murder- quite literally. But of course they couldn’t. Nobody can, in the end. God sent Jeremiah’s generation into exile, and their temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. It wasn’t rebuilt until the people returned out of exile.  So by quoting Isaiah, Jesus is setting out the ideal for the temple, and the reality. He’s saying “This is what you should have made the Temple. This was God’s blueprint for you after you’d come out of exile, but you’ve been blind and lazy and greedy.” And then by telling the Israelites that they’ve made the temple a den of robbers, quoting Jeremiah to them, Jesus is saying that rather than making things better, Israel have just gone back to the way things were before the exile. Just like the exiled generation, his generation are wicked and ripe to be cursed by God. They too have desecrated the temple. Their religious life is worthless, fit only to be destroyed. Destruction looms. This is harsh teaching. Jesus is cursing the temple, and cursing the whole community of Israel which focuses its life on the Temple.

5.      What does this miracle, in which Jesus curses a fig tree, point to? (Hint: Of what is a fig tree a picture?)

Bertrand Russell, the famous philosopher and serial adulterer*, wrote:

“Then there is the curious story of the fig tree, which always rather puzzled me. You remember what happened about the fig tree… This is a very curious story, because it was not the right time of year for figs, and you really could not blame the tree. I cannot myself feel that either in the matter of wisdom or in the matter of virtue Christ stands quite as high as some other people known to history. I think I should put Buddha and Socrates above Him in those respects.”

That is from his essay, “Why I am not a Christian”. It forms part of a section in which Russell argues that Jesus Christ was morally defective. In this passage, Russell paints Jesus as vindictive and petty, cursing a poor innocent tree just because it was barren and he was hungry. He reads it as Jesus being hungry, wanting something to eat, and venting his frustration on the fig tree when he doesn’t find any figs there, in a sort of temper tantrum, showing selfishness and abusing his power.

Russell simply hadn’t done his homework. He thought that “You really could not blame the tree”. Had he been a serious reader of the Bible, he would have known that the tree had it coming. Jesus had excellent reasons for cursing the fig tree.

The miracles are signs, pointing to God’s kingdom. But this miracle is obviously not like other miracles of Jesus. How is it showing us God’s kingdom? Why does Jesus kill the tree? If he’s looking for figs, then why not use his power to force a crop of figs out of it? Why curse it (to use Peter’s word)?

Now, obviously, Jesus does not curse the fig tree in a fit of pique, out of personal frustration, in a sulk. Sulking is a sin, just as much as lying and stealing are. And so is taking unnecessary offence and overreacting sinful. And so is abusing power sinful. Jesus was not doing any of those things. He had a very good reason for cursing the fig tree.

In v12, we find Jesus hungry. He goes along and sees a fig tree which promises fruit, but when he goes up to it, he doesn’t find any fruit on it. He finds only leaves, because it is not the season for fruit. The fig tree bears fruit, so the commentaries say, from May to June. Jesus is in Jerusalem in Passover season, in April. If it had been tabernacles time, as the crowds thought, then the tree would have been full of fruit (“Take choice fruit from the trees” Leviticus 23:40). But although it is too early for figs, this tree looks as though it could be fruiting early; and it is the time when you might expect some early first fruits on the fig tree. It has leaves, it looks green and alive. But Jesus goes looking for fruit, and finds none. He is disappointed by it. So Jesus speaks to the tree. And as he spoke to the wind and the waves, and they heard him, so the fig tree hears him. He says “May no one eat from you again”, and the next morning, when Jesus and the disciples pass that way again, they see the tree dead from the roots. Peter says that the fig tree that had been cursed is now withered.

We’ve seen already that the fig tree is meant to be linked to the Temple. We are supposed to see this as related to the destruction of the temple. But is there any reason to do so other than the way Mark recounts the events?

It becomes clearer when you remember that the fig tree, in the Old Testament, is frequently used as a picture of God’s people, Israel. We see it in Hosea 9:10, the flavour of this association. God says “When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert; when I saw your fathers, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree”. And also in Micah 7 where the speaker hungers for figs, but finds only corrupt men, the best of them like briers and thorns. And again in Jer 8:13; 29:17, Israel are to be like a fig tree. The idea is that they are to be sweet, to bring pleasure to God. In Israel, people didn’t have sugar in bags like we do. If they wanted to sweeten something, they’d have to use something else sweet. Honey would be the single sweetest thing they would know. But they wouldn’t eat honey all that often. And so some of the sweetest things they would usually eat were the sweeter fruits like figs and grapes. The fig tree and the vine are then natural pictures of something that brings pleasure. And it makes sense to hear God speak in this way about his people. Perhaps most strikingly in Luke 13:6-9, Jesus tells a parable where Israel is like a fig tree. God has planted this tree, and cared for it, and God expects it to bear fruit. He has given Israel the law, sent her prophets, and holy men to tell her and show her how to live. God has delivered the nation from Egypt, given her the land, protected her against her enemies. It is reasonable for him to expect Israel to live lives of devotion, and to be sweetness to him. But instead, the nation is barren. When God comes to Israel- when Jesus, the God-man comes- does he find the sort of fruit he is looking for? There are some signs of life there on this tree in Mark 11. There are lots of green leaves, the tree is not dead- but there are no figs. It seemed full of life, it seemed promising, but on inspection, it was seen to be utterly barren. It is a tree that looks as though it could have fruit to give, but which bears nothing useful. God looked to Israel for fruit, but found only an outward show, and no real worship of God.

So when he curses the tree, Jesus is acting prophetically. Some of the Old Testament prophets were commanded by God to perform actions, which had meanings. The prophets were to speak to Israel by doing things, and Israel were to see the significance of those things (Isa 20:1-6; Jer 13:1-11; 19:1-13; Ezk 4:1-15). So Jeremiah is to wear a garment, and them bury it, and then dig it up again and find it spoiled, and no good. And it is meant as a picture of Israel, who should be a garment for the Lord, resting on him for support, and being an adornment for him, a people to bring him praise and honour. But they are a spoiled garment, good for nothing. Isaiah and Ezekiel also carry out prophetic actions. What Jesus was doing in this action, was announcing God’s final rejection of faithless Israel.  God had made this people his own, had set them apart to be his own, had borne with them over hundreds of years of backsliding and idolatry as he sought to bring them back to faithfulness, love, service and obedience. But now, their Messiah has come, and they still have not turned back to God. In fact, they will turn away from God, rejecting his Messiah. It’s ironic in v18, that the chief priests seek a way to destroy Jesus. He’s just called them murderers, quoting Jeremiah, and they say “He can’t call us murderers! We’ll kill him.” He says that the Temple will fall, and they plot to destroy the real temple, his body.

For a barren fruitless Israel, the game is over. They have brought the curse upon themselves. The word “cursed” is significant. It is a covenant word. Remember Deuteronomy, chapters 28, the blessings and cursings on Israel. Obedience brought blessings and curses were invited by disobedience. Bless, bless..bless..bless, and curse, curse, curse. .are repeated over and over again. Jesus, by cursing the fig tree, symbolically announces his final cutting off of a disobedient people, a people who have every reason to be faithful and obedient, but who are religious hypocrites. This is a sign.

*Yes, yes, I know. Ad hominem is bad form. But in this case, although Russell’s being a serial adulterer has no bearing on whether or not Jesus was a good man, it certainly does have bearing on whether Russell himself is qualified to make the comment he does. Read the quote again. Where does Russell get off, criticising Jesus? There he is, pontificating that Jesus ranks a little below Buddha and Socrates, but what on earth makes him think he’s a decent judge of moral character? He couldn’t even keep it in his pants.


6.      In what way are the cursing of the fig tree and the destruction in the temple linked?

Really, we’ve already answered this question. The two threads of the story are so plainly interlinked. The temple was like the fig tree. The latter was covered in green leaves, but devoid of fruit. The former was a bustling place, full of people, full of life- but empty of real devotion to God. Just as the fig tree looked as though it should have fruit, but had none, so the Temple looked as though it was full of worship, but it was empty. It was a hollow sham. The fig tree was useless, it brought no pleasure to Jesus when he came hungry and looking for figs, and Israel were a useless people, bringing no pleasure to God when he looked on them. The fig tree was cursed, and the unrepentant Israelites were cursed.


7.      How should we apply these things to ourselves?

So what does this mean for us? Jesus came to the temple some 2000 years ago and cursed it. And 40 years later, God’s final judgement fell on it when the Romans destroyed it in AD 70. It was all over long ago, wasn’t it? This passage speaks to Israel as the descendents of Abraham, a theocratic nation state. How is it relevant to us, to members of Christian churches?

Both incidents highlight to us that the one who knows us and sees us absolutely, who sees the heart, does not accept the outwardness of religion. Jesus is cursing religion which appears to offer much, but which is actually barren and empty. The temple was magnificent. It looked as though it honoured God, and it ought to have done. It bore God’s name. People called it the house of the Lord. But it only honoured God with its lips. Its heart was far from him. Jesus curses wicked religion which does not produce the fruit of righteousness. Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord sees the heart.  

We could be reminded of the words in Revelation 3 where Jesus, inspecting the churches as he inspected the temple, says to Laodicea “You say ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing’ But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” Jesus sees the truth- the church in Laodicea is a spiritual disaster. What does he see in our churches? Does he see leaves or fruit? When he looks at our lives and our minds, what does he see? Does he see a pretence of religion, or the fruits of real religion. Does he see a real trust and faith in him, that clings to him as its hope? Does he see a heart’s desire to keep his commandments and walk in his ways, to be separate from sin, to put it away and not to play with it? Does he see a desire to love the brethren as Christ himself loved us? Are we willing to put their needs above our own, willing to forgive seventy times seven, knowing that we ourselves have been forgiven? Do we see ourselves as poor and needy in God’s eyes, humbled by our sins? Or do we secretly think we are rich?

Jesus sees through all the outward show of our religion. Jesus is the one with whom we have to do, who sees past the pretence of things and inspects our hearts. We can fool even ourselves, but we can’t fool him. Jesus has been appointed as your judge. He will come, and he will judge justly.

And yet he is gracious. He is slow to anger, and abundant in mercy.  In Micah 7 “Who is a God like you who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever, but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” Jesus is the perfect image of the Father. There is nothing un-Godlike in him, as there is nothing un-Christ-like in the Father. He delights to show mercy. To that church in Laodicea, Jesus doesn’t just make threats and issue warnings- although he does do that. Jesus makes promises. Jesus says that he rebukes those he loves, and that he is standing at the door ready to eat with them. Jesus came to the temple genuinely looking for fruit. He wasn’t coming just seeking a pretext to destroy the place. He really wanted to find worshippers there; just as he really wanted to find figs on the tree- he was hungry. And he really wants to find worshippers still. He is ready to forgive the sins of all who come to him, seeking his mercy.

And he has destroyed the temple because it is no longer needed. Because the sacrifices which God ordained there are now fulfilled at Calvary. And although national Israel are cut off, God will raise up for himself a true Israel- has raised and is raising up for himself a true Israel, a people who will be everything that OT Israel was not. He puts His Spirit within them, and gives them hearts that love him and want to see his name honoured.

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