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Summary: While some people may appear beautiful, like the fig tree, there are little or no fruits of righteousness in their lives. Jesus cursed the fig tree and it withered away. Can we expect any less of we don't serve the Lord. On the other hand, there is not

Withering Away

By Pastor James May

The time for Jesus to pay the price for the sin of man was fast approaching. He had entered the City Gates of Jerusalem riding upon a donkey and was met by cheering crowds and the waving of palm branches. He received the welcome of a conquering king; someone who had finally dared to rise enough in power among the people to cast off the heavy hand of the Romans from the Jews. This was their hour of triumph! The Deliverer had come! They looked upon Jesus as the savior of the nation of Israel; one who could reunify the nation and bring back peace, freedom and prosperity.

Of course, this was all true of Jesus, but the peace, freedom and prosperity that he would bring was not what the Jews expected. Their focus was on earthly things while Jesus’ focus was on things eternal. His peace was a peace far greater than anything the world could offer. His freedom was an uncommon freedom; a freedom that did not depend upon who sat upon the throne of human government. His prosperity had little to do with worldly wealth.

Jesus came that we might have peace; an inward peace that will remain no matter what turmoil is going on in our lives. He came that we might have freedom; freedom from guilt, sin and shame; and freedom from condemnation. He came that our heart, soul and spirit would prosper as we serve the Lord and trust in God to meet the needs of the body.

But because their hearts were set upon earthly kingdoms, we see the Jews proclaiming with one voice as Jesus enters the gate, “Hosanna…Hosanna in the highest….Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord….blessed is the kingdom of David!” They were convinced that the time of the rising of Israel from the ashes of defeat had come and that Israel would once again be the nation that it once was, proud and independent.

Jesus was not deceived by the actions of these Jews. He accepted their praise and he fully deserved all of it; but he also knew that it was to be short-lived. That praise would soon turn to curses as the march to Golgotha’s Hill went steadily onward.

The first thing Jesus did was to go to the temple in Jerusalem. If there was any place in the city where he would be at ease, it should have been at the temple; the very House of God, dedicated to the service and praise of God; and thus to Jesus himself.

But when he arrived at the temple Jesus found that this was not the House of God that it should have been. Everywhere he turned there were people making money off of those who came to worship. It was extortion in the name of serving God.

The Jews were required to make sacrificial offerings in the temple; and those who sold the animals needed for the sacrifices, charged exorbitant prices. To make matters worse, the necessary sacrificial animals could not be purchased with ordinary money because much of it was considered unclean, bearing the image of Caesar. In order to buy any sacrifice, those who came to worship had to exchange their common money for temple money. Of course the High Priest and his cohorts had set an unfair exchange rate so that you didn’t get an even trade in value, giving less back in temple money than what they received in common money. This was nothing more than a “Get Rich Quick” scheme dreamed up by the rulers of the temple and they were getting rich off of the heart of worship of the people.

What did Jesus come to the temple hoping to find? Matthew 21:13 gives us the answer.

Matthew 21:13, "And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves."

I wonder how many churches today would experience the anger of Jesus as he cast out those who extort offerings from the people, those who preach a gospel of worldly prosperity and have transformed the church into a marketplace for their books, CD’s, DVD’s and even requesting offerings in payment for prayers of blessings from the Lord. How many men today are selling the gospel to those who will pay their price? How many are selling cheap trinkets with the promise of greater returns. What’s the difference between this and the operations of the money changers at the temple in Jesus’ day?

Jesus came to the temple hoping to find his people engaged in prayer and praise before God. Instead of selling merchandise and making money, there should have been a prayer meeting going on 24 hours a day. Instead of stealing and extortion, there should have been healing and deliverance. Instead of lying and deceiving, there should have been the preaching of the truth, and the revelation of the arrival of the Messiah of Israel. But the focus wasn’t on things eternal; only on things of the world.

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