Easter Study – The Cleansing of the Temple and The Cursing of the Fig Tree

While the Triumphal entry was a really high point during the last week of Christ’s life, it doesn’t take long to get back to reality.

Before approaching Jerusalem, the Lord laments.

“And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,

Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.” – Luke 19:41-42

His people were wicked. They didn’t recognize Him. Israel refused to know their Lord and see Him – even though He was physically before their eyes. This experience provides an interesting backdrop for what happens next.

(The accounts in Matthew, Mark, and Luke differ a little bit as to the chronology of events. So, I’m going to look at this following Mark’s chronology…I find his especially interesting).

The Cursing of the Fig Tree
When Christ approaches the fig tree and finds it barren, he curses it.

At first glance, it can seem like the Lord was being impatient or maybe in a bad mood. But I don’t think that this is the case. The fig tree hadn’t filled the measure of its creation. I feel like this is symbolic. The House of Israel – and the Jews especially had been a chosen people. They had been carefully planted and tended, yet they refused to bring forth good fruit.

In the allegory of the vine, the Lord explains:

“Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away:…” – John 15:2

We know that we shouldn’t bring forth bad fruit, but that isn’t enough. We can’t simply “abide in Christ” and bring forth no fruit. We can’t be like the fig tree, without fruit. It isn’t enough to be a member of the House of Israel. We need to bear good fruit. We need to do good work.

Cleansing the Temple
When the Lord gets to the temple, he sees so many people there doing wicked things. The temple, He explains, is to be a house of Prayer. But the people have made it a “den of theives.” Christ takes this treatment of the temple very personally. And for good reason: It is His Fathers house: His House.

Jesus Cleansing the Temple

I like thinking about this in relationship with the cursed fig tree. Both the temple and the fig tree have specific purposes, and neither one was being met. In the case of the Fig Tree, it was cursed because it didn’t bring forth fruit. In the case of the temple, it needed to be cleansed and made Holy again.

Cleaning the temple wasn’t the only thing that the Savior did at the temple. There were some people at the temple who weren’t mistreating it.

“And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.” – Matthew 21:14

They understood the true reason for the temple – that through the temple, they could go and be with the Lord, partake of His goodness, learn of Him, and be made whole.

We are blessed to have temples now. Temples are the house of the Lord, and when we go there, we learn more of the Savior, feel His peace, and enable the healing powers of the atonement to infuse our lives.

“I hope you use the temple constantly because you will gain the blessings that are there that you cannot gain anywhere else on the face of the whole earth. The temple stands as a monument for all to see. It stands as a statement that we as a people believe in the immortality of the human soul. Everything that occurs in the temple is of an uplifting and ennobling kind, and it speaks of life here and of life beyond the grave. It speaks of the importance of the individual as a child of God. It speaks of the importance of the family as the creation of the Almighty. It speaks of the eternity of the marriage relationship. It speaks of going on to a greater glory. It is a place of light, a place of peace, a place of love where we deal with the things of eternity.” – Gordon B. Hinkcley

I truly love the temple. I know that through repeated temple attendance and worship, I have grown closer to the Savior. It is a holy and sacred place. The Lord cannot tolerate sin or wickedness to usurp His power found in the temple. This is why Christ needed to cleanse His temple anciently, and it is why we need to go reverently to the temple now.

The Cursing of the Fig Tree, continued
In the Account given by Mark, after the temple was cleansed, the apostles notice that the fig tree had been dried up and withered – all on account of Christ’s cursing it. The apostles are somewhat amazed by the withered fig tree.

Jesus responds simply to their amazement:

“…Have faith in God.” – Mark 11:22

That’s what it is all about – the cursed fig tree, the cleansing of the temple, healing in the temple, everything. It is all about having faith in God; Having faith in our Savior. We need to have faith in the power of God and Christ. He is the Master, the Creator, the Redeemer. He is our King, the Father of our redemption. If we have faith in Him, not only could we make a fig tree wither, or a mountain move, but through faith in Him and His infinite power, we can be healed – from pain, trials, and ultimately death and Sin.

What do you do to remember the Lord, to fulfill the measure of your creation, and to exercise faith?

***

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