Palm Sunday Sermon
1) Text: Read Fig leaf account...
"On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard it."
- (Mark 11:12-14 ESV)
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2) Opening Statement:
This is perhaps one of the most pivotal chapters in the gospel of Mark.
At the beginning of this chapter people are waiving Palm Branches and ready to crown him king..., and at the end they are plotting to murder him...
-Why?-
What would make people change their minds & plot to lie against and murder someone ...
Especially someone who tells stories and heals the sick?
He is a good man!
These are "good people" too... Some of the most righteous upstanding citizens of the world!
Yet they quickly change their hearts 180 degrees...
-Why?-
And in the middle, sandwiched between two whirlwind action sequences (and two very different views of Jesus) lies this seemingly random story about a fig tree??
-What the heck?-
What if I told you that this fig tree is the key to unlocking this mystery of this entire chapter...
- why people changed their response to him so drastically...
- how good God-fearing people can go from Crowning to Crucifying their Savior
...And that same key also speaks to your life today...
If you miss this, you could end up misunderstanding the heart of the Kingdom...overwhelmed with life... even bitter, focused on the wrong goals and priorities...missing out on the heart of the Gospel and What Christ wants to do in your heart and in your life!
What is the mystery of the Fig Tree and how does this strange story apply to my life today?
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3) Start with Story of a Donkey
24 hours earlier... (Beginning of chapter) (Going to Jerusalem- Passover)
miracle (tied up for the Master's use)
riding in as king (humility & peace)
Fulfills prophecy... Zechariah 9:9
"Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey."
He rides in and they wave Palm Branches... (Signal of revolution)
"This is the King we have been waiting for!
...Our Messiah!
...The one who will set things right!
...He has come to fulfill our hopes and deliver our dreams...
...Everything we have longed for and prayed for and begged God to give us is finally here
...He will reclaim the throne,
...overthrow Rome's oppressive rule,
... Let us worship God in our way,
...and give us our Best Life Now!"
We all want a King like that! (Don't we?)
- Hear our cries
- Give us justice
- Deliver on campaign promises
- Give us the life WE want and dream of...
Quick App:
Don't we all hope for that?
Don't we all want to hope that good things can happen?
That this or that could change and things will get better?
- We think that new job will deliver the finances we want which will deliver the life we want...
- Or maybe that new special person is "the one" and I'll finally find true happiness...
- If we could just get to a new city... Fresh start!
- If so and so would get elected...
- If...if...if...
We are always putting our hope in someone or something...
It's a natural part of our makeup
We want to hope that good things can happen
...and they can...
....But we are often let down by life...
The problem is two fold:
1) That we put the weight of our expectancy on things that can't deliver
2) We have the wrong expectations of the One that can
I have heard 3-4 people tell me "all conflict is unmet expectation"
That seems true doesn't it?
The good news is that Jesus is the one who can bear the weight of our expectation...
In fact he is the only one who can deliver the promises he makes
But these people were looking for a different kind of messiah...
- The one who would take their sorrow and give them joy
- Take their oppression and give them freedom
- Take their Poverty and give them the Riches of Heaven
- They want all the Promises of the Old Testament Prophets without the necessary Process to get there (*the Throne without the Cross... Eternal Life without Death & Resurrection)
... They want those promises & they want those promises now...
To them Jesus embodies their vision of the kingdom... In their timing and their way
- Song: "I want it all... I want it now!"
But Jesus will not be tamed and tied and bound by our missed expectations...
He is the King... He has a plan... He knows what's best
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4) Jerusalem
When he arrives he steps down from this Donkey and walks into the Temple...
The heart of the city...
Thousands of years of history and tradition (build up temple)
He Explores...
Sees all that's going on
He hears the sounds of the worship and prayer and money changers.
He Sees the sacrificing and activity.
Worship and Commerce and Culture
And to understand what he saw and felt when he went to the Temple, you have to understand what a huge thing this was for his people, especially at this time.
--It wasn't just a nice church building!!--
Solomon had built the original temple... (One of the Wonders of the ancient world)
- Gold/Ceders...etc
(100k Talents of Gold = 7.5million lbs of Gold... More than USA has at Ft Knox!)
But That temple had been destroyed around 400-500 years earlier by Babylon... (Nebedchanezer)
...When the Jews were first led away into captivity... And they laid down and wept at the Rivers of Babylon remembering Zion, Gods holy hill...
---The temple was entrenched in their Psyche...---
Then, when Jesus was a baby, Herod the Tetrarch (1 of greatest architects ever lived) rebuild the temple... It wasn't Solomon's, but it was amazing!
The Jewish historian Josephus (lived around time of Jesus) wrote of what he looked upon: "The outward face of the Temple in its front wanted nothing that was likely to surprise either men's minds or their eyes; for it was covered all over with plates of gold of great weight, and, at the first rising of the sun, reflect back a very fiery splendor, and made those who forced themselves to look upon it to turn away their eyes, just as they would have done at the sun's own rays."
Contextualize:
The Temple was the:
- Center of City and Cities Commerce,
- Most Astounding Architecture,
- It carried enormous Cultural Significance
- It Embodied Israel's Hope...
COMBINE Wall Street, Congress, Harvard and the Statue of Liberty all into one And you'll have some kind of idea what the Temple represented and the ideals it embodied to the people of Jesus' Time)
To these people who had been beat down & held captive by foreign powers...
...It was more than a temple, it was a picture of salvation
...When all else was falling apart they had this one thing to keep them going...
...It embodied the hope they were holding onto...
...It almost functioned as a sort of savior
Jesus steps into the temple...
He lets the full force of that moment hit him...
He takes it all in...
Then he just leaves... Walks away
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5) The Fig Tree
The next Morning, AS he returns To the Temple at Jerusalem From Bethany...
On the path Jesus encounters the Fig Tree we read about...
Now normally this story goes something like this...
"Jesus was hungry... having a bad mood... so he sees this fig tree... but because there is no fruit on it he curses this tree..."
Obvious lesson this morning:
God Hates Figs...
this is why we dont eat fig Newtons... (
But This story goes much deeper?
Think about it...
Jesus is on his way to and from the city and what is in the center of the city? Temple.
The Fig Tree in 1st century Jewish culture was a symbol of Jewish spiritual leadership and authority. (Minor Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Habakuk, Zephaniah, Zechariah all refer to the Fig Tree as a type of Israel and Spiritual Leadership)
"The tree became a perfect metaphor for Israel and beyond that for those claiming to be Gods people that do not bear fruit for him." -Tim Keller, Kings Cross
Jesus is on his way into the city to the temple where he is going to essentially declare that the temple is irrelevant and On the away and he curses the Fig tree which is a symbol of Jewish religious establishment...
If you go around cursing the symbol of the religious establishment..., the religious establishment isn't gonna go for that.
What does Jesus do on his way into the city? He burns the flag!
Correct?
This is a loaded religious social gesture that he does...
If you are a disciple I assume you'd be like "oooooh" (Epic Rap Battle)
I mean... Whew! He curses the fig tree... (Cursing a fig tree could get you killed)
What is Jesus saying here?
- A fig tree without fruit is useless to a hungry person
- (...Just like a temple in Jerusalem that didn’t bear spiritual fruit was useless)
- He is saying some things about what's coming...
- This entire system (military industrial economic religious complex) is going down...
Why?
Because it has turned from being God-centered, to placing Itself in the center and pushing God out... and God is bringing judgment to it
Instead of representing God it's become a god unto itself...
It used to be an avenue for God to bless His people, but now they have stopped looking to God as the source of blessing and perverted and twisted and warped the system to manipulate their own blessings and get their blessings in their way from the system itself...
It's no longer a contact point for God, it's become an idol...
--IDOLS--
How could that be?
How can a good thing God sets up as a blessing for us...
(...A way to experience his goodness...)
How can something that good become an idol?
It happens all the time!
God gives us:
- Grace
- blessings
- experiences
- relationships
- Jobs
- gifts
...and they are all pictures of His grace...
...Ways of experiencing Him and placing our hope and trust more fully in him...
--But inevitably we end up letting our eyes focus on the Gifts more than the Giver--
((Exp: Smiegel - "...Imagine getting a Ring for your Fiancée and one month Later she starts turning into Smiegel...
Hardly notices you any more...
Hair starts falling out
Skin turns grey
Talks about herself in the Third person...
All she can do is obsess over "My Precious"
She forsakes the giver in lieu of the gift...
Wouldn't that be crazy!!!
This gift meant to bring you closer together ends up being the thing that divides you))
But that's exactly what we do with God... It happens to us all the time &we rarely notice it
He gives us good things and we turn them into ultimate things...
- They become our focus instead of Him
- Provision from God comes Through a Job He has blessed us with...BUT we begin to place our hope for provision in That Job-Paycheck & Performance (and we know because anything that threatens it, rocks our world.)
- Love comes from God through the Relationships He has blessed us with... BUT we begin to place our hope for love in That Relationship... (In fact we end up crushing those poor people under the weight of our expectations because they can not Hope to deliver what we are looking for... Our ultimate source of perfect love is who???)
---IT'S THE SAME WITH EVERYTHING---
- Approval and Acceptance .... Security and Safety... Happiness and Wholeness...
THEY ARE ALL GIFTS FROM OUR GRACIOUS FATHER... But where do we begin to look for these? From the sources he has put in our lives to bless us with them...
...And when those sources don't deliver
...when our delicate systems are challenged
... When our world is threatened... How do we respond?
We either turn our Hearts Back to the Source of Life... The Giver of Gifts
-OR-
We turn our hearts away from Him
We either Hail "Hosanna" and place Him back upon the throne of our hearts
-OR-
We Cry "Crucify Him!" and continue to look for our life elsewhere... In the broken systems that are doomed to fail us over and over...
And that is Exactly what happens next..
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6) The Temple
And he walks immediately up the hill towards the Temple...
And what does he do when He arrives?
He gets Mean and Wild...
This King who rode up on the colt of a donkey yesterday...
...(The symbol of Peace and Humility...)
... He Starts turning over tables and driving the money-changers out of the temple!
---Another what the heck moment!--
That seems a bit extreme... Doesn't it??
Why does he have such a strong Reaction??
But we have to understand...
Not only had they exchanged Their relationship with God for this Temple that represented a systematic religious approach to getting "what they wanted-how they wanted-when they wanted..." (An IDOL)
....But that religious system had begun to corrupt them (like the Ring corrupted Smiegel)
... And then... it begin to destroy others as well
The Temple that had been a place for people to connect with God...
- To find Hope in Him
- To offer sacrifices and find Forgiveness fromHim
- A place where believers who had not yet converted to The Faith could still come to Worship from all over the world in the Gentile Court.
- A place of Hope and Righteousness and Connection with God
(Exp: Disneyland - "...THAT Temple had become more like a Disneyland..
- where a slice of Pizza costs $50
- where we wait for 3 hours for rides that last 15 seconds
- where the Happiest place in Earth = a headache from Dehydration and an Empty wallet
(Do I sound Bitter???)
But seriously... As disillusioned as I can be with the Mouse Kingdom... Many people left the Temple at Jerusalem feeling Gypt and Disenfranchised,
- Pick-pocketed by their own religious leaders
- ripped off by the Money Changers whose God had become capitalistic enterprise
--It's Heart Breaking for me!!!--
Temple in Jerusalem Held SO MUCH tremendous potential for people to have a genuine & powerful encounter with God...
....What was going instead was pure commercialism.
God’s honor and glory was sacrificed for a few people to Line their pockets...
The Idolatry of their system had not only replaced God at the center, but had corrupted them from the inside out and was now destroying others as well...
The thing God had given his people to draw them closer to Him had started driving them further away...
That’s why Jesus quoted Isaiah and Jeremiah as he drove the profiteers out of the temple.
He got mean and wild and drove their idolatry out of the temple...
And how do they respond?
Are they excited about this Revival... This Grace Renewal time in their History?
Are they like "Yes! Messiah is here and He is finally making things right!!!"
... No!... They (the guardians of religion) wanted to kill him for it
Their Idol (this religious system) that had become their source of
- social status
- material payoff...
- control and security...
- position and power....
... their World was threatened...
... Their idolatry challenged...
It's what immediately led them to begin plotting and planning the murder of Jesus
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7) Conclusion: We are They...
A few days later the plans of the Pharisees became known
They brought Jesus before the rulers of Israel and Rome
The People who chanted "Hosanna," began shouting "Crucify Him!"
Now I dont know about you, but when I look at them I get enraged!
I Think:
"ignorant Pharisees... Foolish Fickle People...so into their little world they can't see what's going on around them... Stuck on themselves... Plotting to destroy anyone and anything to protect their way of life"
And as I point my finger at them I realize I am pointing three back at me...
We may look at the Pharisees today and the fickle crowd that changed its tune and feel a tinge of anger... How short-sighted and self-seeking humans can be...
But If we are honest today, There is a fundamental truth that resides deep within the dark places of our hearts...
At one time or another, we are all that Fig Tree...
We all have our Temples...
The Places In Our hearts where something else rules and reigns beside God
Maybe it's your moralistic approach to God
Or the Licentious way you use systems to manipulate your way
The way we sacrifice at the altar of others opinions
Or the way you overwork and slave away to provide some sense of security for your untrusting heart...
Money, Sex, Addictions, Religion...
And the deal is if they go unchecked they will not only begin to corrupt us from the inside out -debilitating us and warping who we are- but they will also begin to influence and potentially destroy others around us...
Counterfeit gods take over our lives, and render them fruitless and unfulfilling... Like the fig tree
The Pharisees functional saviors were threatened so they killed their true savior
--- POSITIVE---
But they missed something...
The thing they couldnt see is that what he was bringing was infinitely better than the broken system they had replaced God with...
Jesus Curses the Unfruitful Fig Tree
Jesus Denounces The broken system of religion in that day that they looked to for salvation
And He announces himself as the savior instead...
--NT Wright--
The force of such sentences is lost unless it is realized that, in making such pronouncements, Jesus was implicitly claiming to do and be what the temple was and did. It is not enough to say, within a normal western-Christian mode of thought, that he was ‘claiming to be God’. What he was claiming to do was to act as the replacement of the temple, which was of course the dwelling-place of the Shekinah, the tabernacling of Israel’s God with his people.
The thing the Pharisees are missing out here is the good news...
Jesus is not trying to destroy them or their lives...
He is freeing them from their bondage....
Slavery to a god that will destroy their lives not heal them...
Jesus meanness is not mean...
He is embodying the holiness of God...
It is perfect Justice and love...
That whip in his hands was gracious...
He was a Representative of Gods corrective love...
And He does the same thing in all of our lives...
Jesus is riding towards your heart today in peace and humility
... to humbly yet courageously do the hard work that we can't do ourselves...
Set you free...
Cleanse the temple of your life...
He cleanses us with the truth of His word...
Sometimes he graciously challenges our idols through trials and struggles
...To detach our hearts from false loves we foolishly chase after...
Who The Lord loves, he chastens
Do you see Gods loving correction as good news?
When Jesus comes to challenge the areas your life how do you respond?
Will you turn your back or bow your head?
Praise and Enthrone Him or Plot to overtake him, kill his work in your life?
Application... Jesus wants to replace your temple... The place you have built up in your heart to worship... The things you hold in highest regard... Etc.
It is his way of humbly bringing true peace in your life... To declare your other religious systems and functional saviors irrelevant ($, relationships, approval, power, control, etc)
---GOSPEL---
But maybe you still hear this as Bad News today...
Let me share with you the Good news...
Lets end where we began & look one more time at the center of this...
....The Fig tree
---We are the fig tree---
In fact that Fig tree is a perfect picture of us without Christ
Why was it not producing figs? It was not its time... Out of season
(100 years ago you couldn't get fruit year-round... Had to wait for the season)
And how does Jesus respond to this fig tree that is helpless to bear fruit because it is not in its season?
He curses it...
In the same way we can not bear fruit apart from Christ
(Jesus says apart from me you can do nothing... Abide in me and you will bear much fruit)
The Fig tree is a perfect type of you and I apart from Christ, fruitless and cursed and dried up from the roots...
The Fig tree is the center of this chapter, but it is not the center of this story...
This chapter is part of a larger story
There is another tree this tree points to...
(The center of the Story (Gospel) is hanging on this tree)
Soaked in blood...
Cursed by man and God
Beaten and Broken and Killed for us....
He became sin who knew no sin that we might become The Very righteousness of God
Yes we are all like that fig tree apart from the work of Christ...
...But what was Christ's work?
First He lived a life full of fruitfulness on our behalf...
Then He took on the Curse for us...
He became our unfruitful, dried up from the roots for us
So that you could become a tree full of fruit
Today, because of His work you can have a life full of fruitfulness
Full of Joy and Peace and Faith-full-ness and Godliness
Blessing everyone that comes around you...
Today, your heart can be a picture of what the temple was meant to be...
- a place full of light and holiness
- where the presence of God, through the Indwelling Holy Spirit can dwell in the midst of His people
- you can become a place where people are connecting to God (a blessing to everyone around you)
- You can boldly and fear-less-ly begin to face the idols in your life and know that You can overcome them and their hold on you (addictions and seemingly helpless situations) by His power working in you!
- He took on the weight of our idolatry so we could be free to place God once again in the center of our lives
- You can trust that if you let him into the temple of your life, he will graciously drive out the things that would destroy you
- If you crown him today, you will begin to know what it's like to have life and joy and peace!
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God is freeing you from the tyranny of self-rule and calling you to place Him in the center of your heart again...
What is the cry of your heart?
"Hosanna! This is our long Awaited King!" or "Who does he think He is???"
Will you Enthrone Him or Reject Him?
Will you Crown Him or Crucify Him?
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Let's Pray
Jesus... thank you for showing us what your Rule and Reign look like...
- A humble king of peace riding toward the heart of our lives to Save us from ourselves
.... to burn the flags of our idolatrous alliances
.... to turn over the tables of our moralistic religious approach to God...
.... our do-it-yourself approach to success and fortune...
.... our bartering and bargaining for favors and cheap grace...
.... To drive out the thieves that would rob us of the peace and grace YOU are bringing in this graciously restored and direct relationship with the God of heaven.
Help us to see you overwhelming love for us...
Let your grace seem all the more amazing to us today...
Give us the faith to Trust you and Crown you King of our hearts
Give us the Courage to see ourselves in light of the cross and submit our lives to you
- relationships
- finances
- hopes & dreams

2 Interesting Statements:

zebraphanalia said...

What a fascinating explanation of the fig tree. I never thought much of it other than Jesus showing his power towards unproductiveness (as in our own lives). I missed church tonight but I feel like I got a sermon from reading your blog. Thank you!

zebraphanalia said...

What a fascinating account of the parable of the fig tree. I never thought much about it other than Jesus showing disapproval towards unproductiveness (as in our lives). I missed church tonight but I feel like I just read a most excellent sermon and it left me with some real meat to chew on. Thank you!

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