Updated: Jun 9, 2022
"No sales in the church lobby, right?"
To begin with, forgive me for not posting for the last few weeks. Thank you for your patience and for reading these Pastor’s Posts.
At first glance, these two stories seem unrelated. Jesus loses his cool on a poor fig tree that has not produced the fruit Jesus hoped to eat. Then, Jesus again loses his cool. This time in the Temple outer court where animals for the Temple sacrifices were sold and Romain coin exchanged for the Temple coin. On its own, most of us have no clue about the poor fig tree. As for the turning over tables in Temple court, well, I guess Jesus is telling us, “No selling in the church lobby, right?”
Yet, together, in these events Jesus symbolically acts out the end of the old age and the breaking in of the new age.
Let me give you some information that I hope will help you to interpret this text.
l First, though, when you read two same/similar words, phrases or stories before and then after a section of text, pay attention. This is called an inclusion that forms a “bracket” around some other text. The inclusio gives you clues and direction for interpreting the text they bracket.
Read verses 12-14 and then 20-21. Hint, this is an inclusio. Look beyond a story about a barren tree to ask what Jesus might be symbolically saying? Jesus is hungry. As Jesus approaches the fig tree, he sees the leaves apparently indicating a healthy tree. On arriving at the tree, though, Jesus finds only leaves and no fruit.
* People are “hungry” for more than food. For what do you think?
* “Fruit” is used in the Scriptures to indicate a character growing to be more in line with Godly thoughts and actions.
* The fig tree will never be healthy again.
Read verses 15-17. Hint, the unfruitful fig tree “brackets” Jesus’ actions in the Temple. Ask what is Jesus saying about the Temple and the function of the Temple in his disrupting the sale of items necessary for the Temple to function?
* The Temple is the “touch point” between God and God’s people, the Jews.
* Through ongoing sacrifices, God tells the people they will find forgiveness of their sins. Ongoing because the sacrifices can never really accomplish what they intend to offer.
* In the outer court, pilgrims could purchase the proper animals for their sacrifice. This was a good thing as God told them to offer sacrifices for their sins!
* In the outer court, Jews could also exchange Roman coins for Temple coins necessary for every male to pay their yearly Temple tax. This funded the daily sacrifices in the Temple for the forgiveness of sins. Again, not a bad thing.
* These sales were a very necessary part of the ongoing work of the Temple to offer sacrifices for the peoples’ sins.
* This all took place in the outer courts which was the only place non-Jews were allowed. Archeologists have found sings indicating that any Gentile (a non-Jew) who went further into the Temple would be responsible for their own death. That is, they be killed for trespassing. Gentiles were excluded from going any closer to the place God met God’s people.
Read verse 17. Hint: This is the key verse.
* IMPORTANT: Read Isaiah 56:1-8. “….house of prayer for all the nations.”
* IMPORTANT: Read Jeremiah 7:1-15. “…den of robbers….” Likely NOT speaking of the sellers in the Temple court but instead about how people view God and the Temple.
* Think about where Jesus is and what he is saying.
Remember, ask how does the two-part fig tree event help you understand and interpret the Temple event?
Pray. Read the text a few times with this information in mind. Pray again. Seek the Holy spirit’s guidance in interpreting the text.
See you Sunday!