“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” – John 14:9
Many people today like to think about Jesus as a really nice, agreeable, weak sort of man. Some would characterize him as the “kind and gentle” face of God. While it is true that Jesus was often kind and gentle with the people he came into contact with, he did not possess any sort of personality traits that were not wholly representative of God the Father. This sort of thinking about Jesus was most prominent in an early church heresy known as Marcionism. The basic teaching of Marcionism is alive and well in the world today. For a short blog post from Kevin DeYoung about Marcionism follow this link https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/marcion-getting-unhitched-old-testament/
This week’s passage from the Gospel of Mark flies in the face of our culture’s popular conception of the personality of Jesus. This is why it is important to remember that everything true about God is also true about Jesus Christ. Yes, Jesus is kind and loving to the sinners he came to save. But he is also blazingly righteous, harshly judgmental of sin, and emphatically demanding of our allegiance.
As you read Mark 11:1-26, take note in your group about things that Jesus does that people in America in 2021 might find to be surprising. Do people often view Jesus as somebody who would allow himself to be welcomed as a king?
Read Mark 11:1-26
When we see the wrathful side of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark we should take note of what things he turns his wrath toward.
The cursing of the fig tree in verses 12-14 and 20-21 seems like a very odd thing for Jesus to do.
In the midst of his triumphal entry and pending crucifixion to save the world, why would Jesus take the time to curse one solitary tree?
This story is a classic example of a Markan sandwich. Mark likes to put one story in the middle of another story in order for the two stories to explain one another. Jesus comes across a fig tree that by its appearance should be giving life-sustaining fruit. When he finds that the tree produces no fruit he curses it never to produce fruit again.
In verses, 15-19 Jesus reacts wrathfully to those who are misusing the court of the Gentiles in the temple in order to turn the sacrificial worship system into a business. Add to this the fact that the fig tree and the temple are both icons of the nation of Israel, and you see that Jesus is teaching a lesson about religious Israel from a place of righteous indignation. Just as the fig tree that appears as if it should bear fruit is accomplishing nothing, so is the religious nation that should be proclaiming the glory of God to the nations failing to do the very thing for which it was created.
How does the cursing of the fig tree and the cleansing of the temple relate to busyness?
Both the moneychangers and the fig trees were very busy with activities. The fig tree was using water, nutrients, and sunlight to create leaves that were of no value. The temple court was probably the busiest and most prosperous place in all of Jerusalem. The problem is that the fig tree, the money changers, and all of those who were benefitting from the business taking place inside the temple courts were spending lots of time and energy doing things that were not what God had commanded them to do.
In verses, 22-26 Jesus explains that the disciples do not merely need to do more. They need to focus on doing the things that they do from a place of absolute faith and prayer.
Questions for Further Discussion
- What did the moneychangers do that was so offensive to Jesus?
- In what ways was the temple worship keeping people away from God?
- How can religious worship become just another “business?”
- Why are Americans obsessed with appearing to be busy?
- How can appearing busy lead people away from God?
- Do you feel busy while accomplishing little?
- How do you confuse staying busy with pleasing Jesus?
- Does prayer make your life more productive in God’s eyes?
- Can you eliminate something from your life to make your prayers more effective?
- Can you eliminate something from your life that would make you more productive?