Today is the beginning of what we call the Passion Week. Passion week runs from Palm Sunday to Easter. Throughout the week there are many events that took place.
I encourage you to read them. Take a look at the passages of Scripture in Matthew chapters 21 through 27; Mark chapters 11 through 15; Luke chapters 19 through chapter 23; and then lastly, the Gospel of John covers this week in chapters 12 through 19.
Let me give you a few of the highlights and then come back and give you some thoughts on the events as to how they can relate to us.
Palm Sunday: Many call today, Passion Sunday. This is the beginning of the agonizing journey to Calvary and the Crucifixion. As most plans in life, it began with great excitement; a triumphant entry.
“So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Hosanna in the highest!”
And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?”
So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”
-Matthew 21:6-11, NKJV
This begins the process of the passion of Christ. We must remind ourselves that the passion of Christ was not to have a triumphant entry to Jerusalem, His passion. What drove Him was, what would lie at the end of the week; the death, burial and the resurrection. It was through that, that we, likewise, could enter the New Jerusalem triumphant with Jesus.
He went to the temple…. this was probably a shock to the People who had been shouting Hosanna in the streets. Hosanna means, Save Now. They were shouting at Jesus to overthrow the Romans, help us politically, redeem us economically, and lead the military to a crushing defeat of the Roman empire.
They figured that Jesus would, upon His entrance to the city of Jerusalem, head directly to the fortress of Antonia. Instead, Matthew 21:12 records that Jesus went to the temple. They thought Jesus would deal with the Romans. Instead, He went to the temple to deal with what was going on in there.
“Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’”
Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have perfected praise’?” –Matthew 21:12-16, NKJV
Let me remind you that Jesus had previously cleansed the temple.
“Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” –John 2:13-17, NKJV
This is an important lesson for us. Here is Jesus, getting ready to finish up His work here on the Earth. He is setting things in the order that He wants them. I believe we should pay particular attention to this part of this story.
In 1 Corinthians 3:16, it tells us that we are the temple.
“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” -1 Corinthians 3:16-17, NKJV
When Jesus came for the first time into your life, He cleansed you, washed you, redeemed you, and drove out all the things that were in your life that shouldn’t be there. He overturned everything in your life. I do wish that this was a one-time process. I wish that I could learn the lessons, and not rebuild the tables, and not bring the stuff that Jesus drove out back into my life.
This event, in the beginning of Passion Week, tells me that this is not a one-time process. The junk, the tables, the dirty stuff has a way of creeping back in to our lives. I love that Jesus comes back again, and faithfully, and quite radically cleanses the temple again. He is setting the house in order for His passion to be brought about.
The Lord desires purity with us as people. However, the Lord also wants the corporate church to have its priorities in order as well.
If this is Passion week – Jesus is showing us what He is passionate about. He heads to the church first.
Here are four things that Jesus lays out about the church (corporate and individually) :
“And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” –Matthew 21:13, NKJV
- The Church is a place of prayer.
We, as God’s people, must be people of prayer. This place (church) needs to be a place of prayer.
We must pray without ceasing, and we must pray specifically for the needs that are represented in this house. Less talking about and more talking to. We talk more about the mountains instead of talking tothe mountains.
We must pray for one another. James 5:16 says to confess your faults to one another, pray for one another, that you may be healed. (Ephesians 6:18, 1 Timothy 2:1)
The first priority, and the first thing Jesus said in cleansing the temple, is prayer.
- The Church is a place where people are helped.
“Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.” –Matthew 21:14, NKJV
After prayer, after a cleansing through prayer. The blind and the lame came and were healed.
People who are hurt, wounded, scarred, blind, lame, both physically, spiritually, naturally, and emotionally, this is a place for you. This is the place that you should, and can, receive help. If the house of the Lord is place of prayer, then people who are in need of help will come.
A house without the hurting is not God’s house. A house filled with perfect church people is house that needs to be cleansed. In God’s house, there is always room for the broken, the bruised, the battered, and the blind. If you find yourself struggling today you are in the right place. When life comes at you hard, run to God harder.
If you find yourself struggling with the fact that there are people here who are struggling, then you find yourself in need of cleansing.
If you don’t believe that God’s house is the house of the miraculous, then it’s time to drive out those doubts and false beliefs with a divine encounter with Jesus Christ.
If you are blind spiritually, this is a house that will help you study the Scriptures, hear the Word of the Lord, and you will receive help and healing.
- The Church is a place where God’s power is released.
“But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did…” –Matthew 21:15, NKJV (emphasis is mine)
When God begins to move in the house, when the lame and blind arrive at God’s house, there will be a witnessing of the power of God on display.
The Scripture there in Matthew states that the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that Jesus did.
In all the tragedy that we see, the nastiness that we see, the tables of the temple that we see, the oxen that we see in the church, none of that brings about revival. We need you to see the wonderful things of God.
“Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. –John 9:1-3, NKJV (emphasis is mine)
Jesus told them in the Upper Room in Jerusalem:
“And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” –Acts 1:4-5, NKJV (emphasis is mine)
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” –Acts 1:7-8, NKJV (emphasis is mine)
You have heard about it, but soon you will experience it, and then you will be a witness of the power of God being released.
A man with an experience isn’t at the mercy of a man with an argument. Many people will argue and debate that the power of God has ceased. You need an experience. I am not a doubter, for I have witnessed the wonderful power of Jesus Christ.
- The Church is a place of praise.
“and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant.” –Matthew 21:15, NKJV
When prayer got back into God’s house, the power of God was released, and miracles and signs and wonders began to happen upon those that were hurting, wounded, bruised and battered. It was witnessed, and praise broke out in God’s House.
You see, when Jesus entered into Jerusalem, they were shouting Hosanna in the streets. They were shouting, “Save us now!” But, it was save us politically. It was for economic reasons. However, here in the temple, the children were shouting Hosanna, but it was because they were excited about Jesus and what He did in the temple.
Praise will always break out when we witness what Jesus does in the temple. When we are cleansed, washed, renewed, and His power again flows through us, praise will just break out, for what we have heard and witnessed in the house of God.
God’s house must be a place where praise is expressed.
Now, sure, there will be those who will be indignant about it. They have too many tables, oxen, and other motives in their lives. They just need a good cleansing.
It’s usually the younger ones who have just had an experience with God that will lead the church to be house of praise. When the kids cry out Hosanna, you know that God’s power is being released.
In Mark, chapter 11, Jesus left Jerusalem and went to stay the night in Bethany.
(Bethpage = House of Figs)
The next morning, as He returns to the Temple, Jesus sees a fig tree.
“Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away.” –Matthew 21:18-19, NKJV
Fig trees are common in Israel. Fig trees can grow to heights of twenty-five feet and widths of twenty to twenty-five feet. Because of their abundance, figs were a staple of the Hebrew diet.
Here, Jesus—maybe He was hungry for breakfast—saw a fig tree covered with leaves.
Fig trees are unusual in that the appearance of fruit precedes the appearance of leaves. Jesus assumed, therefore, that since this particular tree was covered with leaves, it must surely contain fruit as well. But this fig tree was a hypocrite. It had leaves—the outward appearance of vitality and health—but no fruit. So, Jesus cursed it, and it withered, Mark tells us, beginning with the roots (Mark 11:20).
Seeing a barren fig tree, Jesus seized the moment to teach a lesson to His disciples, to you, and to me about hypocrisy, hope, and healing. It is a lesson for the Church. It is a lesson I want to leave you with here.
- It was alone.
It was a lone fig tree. The tree couldn’t bear any fruit because it was alone. It is a fact of nature, and of life, that you need community to bear fruit. No cross pollination – no fruit.
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” –Hebrews 10:24-25, NKJV
- It was good looking
You may have a lot of leaves, lots of experiences, lots knowledge, and a lot of titles. You appear to be religious, you’ve got your worship down, your attendance down, even your faith speech down. Yet, your fruit is missing.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” –Galatians 5:22-25, NKJV
We Christians are very good at covering things up. As a matter of fact, the first Adam approached a fig tree (Genesis 3:7). He was looking for leaves to cover His nakedness. That’s exactly what we do in the natural; we want to cover things up. We’ve got our Christian leaves on. I am doing fine.
The first Adam, the flesh, was looking for leaves.
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul called Jesus the last Adam, and He isn’t looking for leaves. He doesn’t care about your cover-up. He is looking for fruit.
You can have it all together on the outside. You can play all the church games you want, have all the outward demonstration you can have, but Jesus is looking for fruit on the inside.
Jesus is still hungry for fruit. What fruit? Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15, NKJV (emphasis is mine)
“heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, (THE FRUIT OF THE GOSPEL)” –Colossians 1:5-6, NKJV (emphasis is mine)
“Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” –James 3:18, NKJV (emphasis is mine)
What will Jesus find in the morning in you? Will He find leaves, or will He find fruit?
If your life is full of leaves and you desire fruit…
“He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it.9 And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’” –Luke 13:6-9, NKJV
For three years this fig tree had been tended, cultivated, and watered, even as Jesus had publicly ministered to the Jews for three years. But there was no fruit. Therefore, the owner said, “Why should it continue to sap nutrients from the soil? Cut it down!”
In verses eight and nine, the vinedresser pleads on behalf of the fig tree. Jesus, your Advocate, your intercessor is, pleading on your behalf. Give me more time to dig around it and fertilize it. Notice it is always in the root system.
The reason for your dryness, barrenness, is what you have tapped into. Jesus came to dig around in your life today, and He is exposing the root systems that are causing fruitlessness. Let Him dig it.
Secondly, let Him fertilize it. What is fertilizer? Manure.
In Philippians 3:4–6, speaking of his past accomplishments, Paul wrote, “I have quite a record. I was born into a godly tribe, lived an upright life, worked zealously, and studied steadfastly.” And then he added: “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ” (see Philippians 3:7).
The Greek word translated “loss” is dung.
You might be saying, I used to be a pastor, gospel singer, or Sunday-school teacher.
It doesn’t matter what you were. You cannot live in the glory of what you were doing in the years gone by, or living on the spiritual high you felt a few years ago. Only what you’re doing presently matters. It is only where you’re at with the Lord today that counts.
We should take a moment and allow the Vinedresser (Jesus) to dig and to dung, to expose sin and to expel self, so that fruit will come.
Allow the Lord to examine you, and take a moment to examine yourself.
May it be our passion to be fruitful, so that when Jesus comes, He will find fruit. May the Lord make you fruitful. May Jesus come by your tree this week and eat of the abundance. May your goal not be to impress others, but to satisfy Jesus.