The Final Week: Monday 30th March, AD 33
(Mt 21:12-19; Mk 11:12-18; Lk 19:45-48)
If you read the Old Testament (especially Jer 8:13; Hos 9:10, 16; Joel 1:7), you see that oftentimes, Israel is represented by a fig tree. So when Jesus curses the fig tree on his way into Jerusalem on the Monday before his death, he is symbolically showing the judgement of God upon a nation that bears no fruit.
[This next part is not from the book but just my observation…] I think about the first time we hear of a fig tree in the Bible. It’s right back in Gen 3:7, when Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves up. Adam and Eve wanted to cover up their own shame with clothing they had wrought. Israel is trying to earn its own way to God by keeping all the rules. Jesus curses the means by which Adam and Eve covered up, and it is this same tree—the fig tree—that represents Israel’s outward religious piety but fails to fix hearts that are far from God. In other words, the fig tree represents our own efforts, our own righteousness, our own merit… and Jesus curses it to show us that isn’t the way to God.
[Back to the book!] Remember back to yesterday… Jesus was in the temple offending everyone at his miracles and his willingness to sit down and receive the adoration of little children. This ‘messiah’, this new king for Israel has just come back on Monday for more… what is he going to do this time? Jesus knows exactly what to expect… moneychangers, merchants, racism and sectarianism. So he makes it known immediately why he’s come back today. He turns over the tables… he kicks out the corrupt occupants of the temple… and he reminds everyone that the house of God is a house of prayer for all nations, not a den of thieves taking advantage of people.
Jesus confronts directly the Jewish leadership; the religious superpower of the time, and reveals their ‘fig leaf’ religion.
And with this act, Jesus further cements his destiny. No one can do this to the powers of the day without paying for it. Jesus must be killed.