Jesus’ Life and Ministry
Visiting the Temple Again
JESUS and his disciples have just spent their third night in Bethany since arriving from Jericho. Now the early morning light of Monday, Nisan 10, finds them already on the road to Jerusalem. Jesus is hungry. So when he catches sight of a fig tree with leaves, he goes over to it to see whether it might have some figs.
The tree’s leaves are unseasonally early, since the season for figs is not until June, and it is now only late March. However, Jesus evidently feels that since the leaves are early, the figs might also be early. But he is disappointed. The leaves have given the tree a deceptive appearance. Jesus then curses the tree, saying: “Let no one eat fruit from you anymore forever.” In a following issue of this magazine, we will be interested to learn the consequences of Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree and what was the figurative significance of this.
Continuing on, Jesus and his disciples soon reach Jerusalem. He goes to the temple, which he had inspected the previous afternoon. Today, however, he takes action, just as he did three years earlier when he came to the Passover in 30 C.E. Jesus throws out those selling and buying in the temple and overturns the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. He does not even allow anyone to carry a utensil through the temple.
Condemning those who are changing money and selling animals in the temple, he says: “Is it not written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a cave of robbers.” They are robbers because they demand exorbitant prices from those who have little alternative but to buy from them the animals needed for sacrifice. So Jesus views these business dealings as a form of extortion or robbery.
When the chief priests, scribes, and principal ones of the people hear what Jesus has done, they again seek how they can have him killed. They thereby prove that they are irreformable. Yet, they do not know how to destroy Jesus, since all the people keep hanging onto him to hear him.
Besides natural Jews, Gentiles have also come to the Passover. These are proselytes, meaning that they have converted to the religion of the Jews. Certain Greeks, evidently proselytes, now approach Philip and ask to see Jesus. Philip goes to Andrew, perhaps to ask whether such a meeting would be appropriate. Jesus is apparently still at the temple, where the Greeks are able to see him.
Jesus knows he has only a few days of life left, so he nicely illustrates his situation: “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. Most truly I say to you, Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains just one grain; but if it dies, it then bears much fruit.”
One grain of wheat has little value. Yet, what if it is put into the soil and “dies,” ending its life as a seed? It then germinates and in time grows into a stalk that produces many, many grains of wheat. Similarly, Jesus is just one perfect man. But if he dies faithful to God, he becomes the means of imparting everlasting life to faithful ones who have the same spirit of self-sacrifice that he has. Thus, Jesus says: “He that is fond of his soul destroys it, but he that hates his soul in this world will safeguard it for everlasting life.”
Jesus obviously is not thinking only of himself, for he next explains: “If anyone would minister to me, let him follow me, and where I am there my minister will be also. If anyone would minister to me, the Father will honor him.” What a marvelous reward for following Jesus and ministering to him! It is the reward of being honored by the Father to associate with Christ in the Kingdom.
Thinking about the great suffering and agonizing death that awaits him, Jesus continues: “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me out of this hour.” If what awaits him could only be avoided! But, no, as he says: “This is why I have come to this hour.” Jesus is in agreement with the entire arrangement of God, including his own sacrificial death. Matthew 21:12, 13, 18, 19; Mark 11:12-18; Luke 19:45-48; John 12:20-27.
◆ Why does Jesus expect to find figs even though it is not the season for them?
◆ Why does Jesus call those selling in the temple “robbers”?
◆ In what way is Jesus like a grain of wheat that dies?
◆ How does Jesus feel about the suffering and death that await him?