Welcome back to Holy Week, where we are walking through the week with Jesus.
After the emotional and eventful day of Palm Sunday, Jesus left and went to Bethany where He spent the night.
This was probably at the home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. The following morning, Jesus returned to Jerusalem, as He did for the next few days. He stopped at a fig tree because He was hungry, but He found only leaves and no fruit. So, He said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Matthew recorded that “immediately the fig tree withered away.”
The disciples marveled at how fast it withered.
Jesus replied, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to the mountain, ‘Be removed and cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matthew 21:21-22).
Fruit is formed first on a fig tree before leaves appear. So, Jesus should have found fruit. Do you remember that the fig tree was symbolic of Israel? Was He implying that Israel’s religious system and their history with God only had leaves for show, but no fruit? Was all their law, their tradition, and their teaching only an external show? Hmmm!
The Jews claimed to be children of Abraham and children of God, yet they rejected Jesus as the Son of God. The Bible warns, to take heed, lest you fall (see 1 Corinthians 10:12).
After this incident, Jesus went to the temple and taught.
The chief priests and the elders questioned His authority. He asked them regarding the baptism of John the Baptist – if it was from heaven or from men. They couldn’t answer, so neither did He answer them.
Daily, during the next few days, Jesus went to the temple and taught.
He taught many parables such as:
The parable of the two sons – meaning those who repent will be saved rather than the religious pretenders.
The parable of the wicked vinedressers – representing Israel and her treatment of the prophets and now scheming to kill Jesus.
The parable of the wedding feast – those, like Israel, who rejected His invitation would suffer destruction.
The religious leaders tried to trick Jesus and asked Him many questions, hoping to find some evidence of blasphemy. They asked Him:
“Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?”
If He said yes, he would lose favor with the common people; if He said no, then He would be a traitor to Roman authority. His answer was magnificent: “Render … to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
“What about the resurrection?”
Their presumed ideas were earthly, not heavenly.
“Which is the greatest commandment?”
Jesus quoted the “shema” from Deuteronomy 6:5 saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Then He tagged on Leviticus 19:18 saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Because He answered them so well, they could not come back with any reply.
Therefore, no one dared to question Him anymore.
Then Jesus did the unthinkable.
He began to rebuke the religious leaders and pronounce woes to those who had outward forms of religion (like the fig leaves) but no spiritual fruit. The leaders had devised a set of 613 commandments to follow. Jesus narrowed it to two as stated above: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. So, simple, yet so profound.
Jesus, then began to lament over Jerusalem because they were rejecting Him as their true King.
As He was leaving the temple, His disciples marveled at the temple building. From that vantage point, Jesus began to warn them and give them signs of the times including the destruction of the temple and signs of the end of the age. The warnings and the parables Jesus gave that day interweave with their timing: some being imminent, some in the future, and some the end of time.
Here are some of the signs:
The temple would be torn down and destroyed (which happened in 70 AD, less than 40 years from His pronouncement);
False Christs/Messiahs would arise;
Wars and rumors of wars;
Nation would rise against nation – the word is ethnos, meaning ethnic strife;
Kingdom against kingdom (basileia) – power struggles;
Betrayal and hatred;
Love decreasing; and
Increase in the gospel being spread (the only bright light in this list).
Jesus said these would be like labor pains, increasing in frequency and in intensity and then the end would come.
Anne Graham Lotz has said that all of these signs have increased greatly just in her lifetime, and especially since the rebirth of the Nation of Israel in May 1948. She also said, “The Bible speaks of a roaring of the seas as an event happening before Jesus. Tsunamis, earthquakes, fires, and violent storms are hitting the region with more frequency.” Jesus said the generation that sees these things take place is the generation that will be the last. “And for me it’s meaningful. I was born May 21, 1948 so I believe it’s my generation,” Lotz explained.
But with all the “woes” Jesus gave, He offered them local advice for the coming destruction of Jerusalem.
Josephus, the Jewish historian, reported that when Jerusalem fell, more than a million Jews perished in one day. But then Jesus gave them a stark warning that there would be a great tribulation “such as has not been since the beginning of the world … nor ever shall be.”
Friend, Jesus’ words are still warning us.
We live in this dispensation of grace, and the end has not yet come. Let’s make sure we are right with the Lord, because time is running out speedily. Even if we are saved and filled with the Holy Spirit, let’s make sure our works are like gold, silver, and precious stones–rather than stubble which burn up with no reward.
We are accountable for our giftings from the Lord.
Remember, Jesus told the parables of the faithful and the evil servants; the wise and foolish virgins; and the distribution of talents. In each of these stories, people did not always steward their giftings well. But we have this promise: that if we are faithful to use our giftings, then He will give us more and we will have abundance–not lack or deficiency. That should bring us joy and hope.
We live in God’s economy, not the world’s economy.
God always takes care of His people. David penned, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (Psalm 37:25). In other words, if we live for the Lord, then He will take care of us and our seed.
We also have these promises:
“When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him” (Isaiah 59:19). And Proverbs 10:25 promises that when the whirlwind comes, the wicked will be no more, but the righteous will still be standing. Hallelujah!
I stand for Jesus and I am standing on His promises.
Whew! Only a few days have gone by during Holy Week, and it has been a roller-coaster ride. But there is a lot more: more drama, more intimate time with Jesus and His disciples, more betrayals, more denials. All this is coming in the next few days during the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection.
So hang on! The best is yet to come.
Friend, are you living with the last days in mind? How are you stewarding your giftings? Let me know by commenting below!