This week I have been following a reading plan by Nick Page which takes you through Holy Week in chronological order. I haven’t bought the book yet but will for next year.
What struck me was the way events I’d always come across in isolation are actually part of a whole in particular Mark 11:12 – 24. This has usually been presented to me as 3 stories; the Fig Tree, The Cleansing of the Temple and Faith to Move Mountains but it is, as far as I can tell, one single prophetic act by Jesus foretelling both the destruction of Jerusalem and the rise of the Church as the new Israel.
The fig tree is used throughout the Old Testament as a symbol of Israel and so when Jesus finds no fruit and declares that it won’t bear fruit again He is signalling the end of Israel as God’s people. He immediately goes into the Temple and drives out the money changers turning over the tables. In doing so He will have brought at least part of the system of sacrifices to a halt; prophesying by His action the end for the need for animal sacrifices from the end of that week.
The following day the disciples notice that the fig tree has withered and point this out to Jesus who responds with:
“"Have faith in God," Jesus answered. "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.”
The phrase “Faith to Move Mountains” has gone into common use to describe someone of a very strong faith who, by comparison, makes the rest of us feel that we are failing. However Jesus never said that, He clearly says “this mountain” - The Temple Mount which rose over them as they walked from Bethany to Jerusalem that spring morning. Jesus is telling the disciples that they, when they become the leaders of the Church, will replace the Temple as the means of God’s grace to all nations.
One final point, many years ago I was told that Jesus cursing a tree that had no fruit out of season was a sign of His humanity, someone snapping under pressure. In isolation it looks like that but not when read in context. One of the scary things about Jesus’ actions in that last week was that He was totally in control of everything and still went through with it for us.