In the Christian church this week it is called Holy Week. Just yesterday in church, the children walked up in church waving palm branches as we sang “Hosanna.” It was Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday kicks off Holy Week. During this week, we look forward towards Easter Sunday when we celebrate Jesus rising from the grave victorious over death itself. But before we get to Easter Sunday, we need to walk through Monday to Thursday and Friday.
This Thursday at church we’ll be observing Maundy Thursday–the night Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. It was the night in which Jesus was betrayed. On Friday, many churches observe what is called Good Friday, the day in which Jesus died upon the cross. The day in which Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice. The day in which God himself turned away from His one and only Son and the sin of the world rested on Jesus’ shoulders.
But before we even get there, we come to Monday and on miffed messiah. The very day Jesus entered triumphantly into Jerusalem, he then turned around and went to the ‘burbs and stayed at someone’s house. The next day he came back to the city. While going into the city, he passes a fig tree. The fig tree was doing it’s on fig tree thing but it had no figs on it and Jesus was hungry. Jesus curses the fig tree for no good reason. Maybe he was just cranky after not eating that morning (maybe he could have used a Snickers). Then it happened.
Jesus entered into the temple courts, and there they were. People changing money–Roman money for Jewish money to pay the temple tax. People were selling stuff all over the place. It was an all out flea market mixed with Wal-Mart going on. And then Jesus really lost his top. He knocked over tables and kicked people out of the temple courts. He was angry. Now, over the years, the old devout fellow believers have told me that Jesus wasn’t angry, it was righteous indignation. Nope. Dude was ticked. (By the way, indignation means to be angry). People had turned the place to worship God into a business. They turned what was supposed to be a place of reflection on God, worshiping God, encountering God, into a place where people abused what God had given them. And this infuriated Jesus.
What’s interesting is that after the whole “temple issue” Jesus leaves the city and comes across the fig tree that didn’t feed him. And it was withered just like he said it would be. His followers were befuddled. It was withered and cursed just like Jesus said. Why? What was going on?
Jesus then begins to talk about faith. What? Faith after Jesus just unleashed a total can of whoop A-crooked letter-crooked-letter on the fig tree and the merchants in the temple? What in the world does faith have to do with this? Jesus tells his followers that if they pray for something and believe it then they will receive it. Dude. What? And then he tells them that they need to forgive others so that they could be forgiven by God. What? Did, like, a switch just get flipped here or something?
The road to Easter is a bumpy, hard, painful, gut wrenching road. It isn’t all happy as we learned in the old Sunday school classes or children’s Bibles. It’s filled with people arguing, people fighting, people going back on their word, and ends with betrayal and death. Jesus’ death.
Why the anger? Why the teaching on faith and forgiveness? Jesus anger was directed at not following God’s word and mistreating God in the first place. Too many times there’s this notion of treating God like a business transaction. We do something for God, pray hard enough, act good enough, do the right things, and he gives us the product we want in return. That’s mistreating God. And Jesus was furious about that.
His response to mistreating God is teaching his followers how to treat God properly. Come to him with what is on your heart. Come to him in faith. Forgive others as God has given forgiveness to you. Don’t treat God like a business but instead like the God he is. A God who wants you to know him, be with him, live with him.
Too many times we mistreat God. Too many times we try to make God do what we want him to do. And when he doesn’t do what we want him to do, we get upset and frustrated and walk away. Let God be God. Let Jesus be Jesus. Instead, ask what you can do for God and serve him in what you do. And you will see amazing things happen. Clear out the tables and junk in your life, bear fruit for Christ, and amazing things will happen.
How can you do this this week?