Summary: Exposition of Mark 11:12-26 about Jesus’ condemnation of hypocrisy and affirmation of genuine faith
Text: Mark 11:12-26, Title: Failure to Satisfy, Date/Place: NRBC, 6/1/08, PM
A. Opening illustration: Hypocrite: Someone who complains there is too much sex and violence on his VCR. One of the subjects I taught was physical science for learning disabled kids. It was hard to get them motivated to do much at all. One day I showed the class a video about protecting the environment. It explored all the ways that humanity was destroying the earth and the steps we needed to take to save our planet. By the end of the video, half the class was unconscious and the other half well on their way to sleepy land. It irked me so I flipped on the lights and launched into a five-minute tirade about how they should care about this subject and do something about it. At the end of my mini sermon one kid named Sam, who never passed a test the whole year, raised his hand. This was odd. Usually nothing roused Sam from his sleep in class. When called on he asked, "Mr. Smith, do you recycle?" Stammering and trying in vain to save face I had to admit that I did not. With one stupid question Sam nailed my hypocrisy. I’ve often wondered if God didn’t work through that sleepy teenager to teach me a lesson. They didn’t buy my message because I wasn’t living out the environmental message. As believers we’ve got to be careful. People won’t buy what we confess in public if we’re not conducting ourselves with integrity in private.
B. Background to passage: Remember Jesus and the disciples just got done with the Triumphal entry in a rather anti-climactic way. And they go back to Bethany. And in the text tonight, they go back to Jerusalem the next morning. Remember what the last thing Jesus did before they retired to Bethany the night before was? Jesus looked around at the temple. And when he returns to the temple the next day to live out a fiery parable before them, the account is sandwiched between this fig tree sandwich. And the latter helps interpret the former.
C. Main thought: In this text we will see the number one gripe of Jesus in the last miracle he does, and the only miracle of destruction in the gospels.
A. No fruit and no faith (v. 12-21)
1. Just as he did the day before in the temple, Jesus walked on the road toward Jerusalem and longed for something. Yesterday it was glory and honor in the temple for the God of Israel; today it was a fig to satisfy his hunger. Yesterday he found no glory, and today no figs. And so he cursed the tree. By the way a better way to understand the “not the season for figs” comment is that in the early spring the leaves and paggim come out, but don’t really mature into real fruit until the fall. But the early stage paggim are edible, and readily eaten by natives to Israel. Jesus was saying that since there were leaves but no baby fruit, it would look like nourishment might be there, but it wasn’t. So it withers and dies. Then he goes to the temple symbolically overturns tables and runs people out and makes a statement from Isa and Jer. He says that it was not to be a house to keep people out (referring to the different courts and restrictions), but to let people have access to God. Isa quote was about how the nations would come in. They had made it a den of thieves. Read Jer 7:1-15. This was not a parable about fundraisers or about budgets or church spending. Jesus said that they had made the temple a place of false refuge. The people were making form religion, embodied in the Temple, their “get out of hell free” card. They had a veneer faith with rottenness inside. Jesus was not cleansing the temple, but cursing its use, and also sealing its fate. They were presuming grace because of their heritage, tradition, chosen status, etc. They were living like one way outside, then coming to church looking all spiritual, and believing all the while that God was accepting their worship and sacrifice, when the opposite was true. And this was the one thing that Jesus decided to preach on—hypocrisy. Read Matthew 23:13-36. He was hardest against those that claimed to know him but in their lives denied it. And the message is clear: no fruit, no faith!
3. Illustration: It’s worth noting that Jesus didn’t condemn bad people. He condemned "stiff" people. We condemn the bad ones and affirm the stiff ones. Whether it was a prostitute or a tax collector or an outcast ... Jesus reached out to them. It was a motley crew of riffraff that followed Him around, and it never embarrassed Him or made Him feel uncomfortable. One of the most radical statements Jesus ever made is found in Matthew 9: "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ’I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners" The evangelical minister who counts homosexuality and "wicked, sick, perverted rap music" among the contributors to society’s ills now blames his conviction for soliciting sexual favors from a borough boy on his defense attorney.