Read Isaiah 1:1-20
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then Jesus asked them, ‘Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures? The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing, and it is wonderful to see‘” (Matthew 21:42; cf. Psalm 118:22-23).
When we read the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus saw himself as a savior of his people. We can see how he he lived, how he taught, and how he ultimately took on the role of God’s suffering servant. We see that he claimed not only to be a teacher or a prophet, but that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. What’s more, Jesus claimed to be one with, and the same as, God Almighty, the great I AM.
His disciples not only believed, but were transformed by their relationship with Jesus and, in turn they helped tranform the world. Jesus’ views were not only his own, but ones steeped in his Jewish beliefs and his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Each day this week, let us look at the prophetic connection between Jesus and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.
Holy Monday. On Monday morning, following Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his cleansing of the Temple, Jesus begins his journey back into Jerusalem. In the evenings, during Holy Week, Jesus and his disciples did not stay within the city, but stayed in the village of Bethany (presumably with his friends Lazarus, Martha and Mary). Bethany is a mere mile and a half to the east of Jerusalem.
Holy Monday, though most people don’t really pay it much mind, was going to be busy day for Jesus. He was further going to push the religious leaders (the Sadducees/priests and the Pharisees/teachers of religious law), the Herodians and all those who had lost their way from God. On his way into the city, Jesus discovered a fig tree that had leaves, but did not bear fruit. Fig trees in that region, evidently, begin to bear fruit before they begin to sprout leaves. With that said, it was not the season for figs to be growing on the tree.
When Jesus saw the tree he cursed it for not bearing fruit. The disciples noticed that the fig had withered immediately upon Jesus cursing it. This action was symbolic of the religious and political leadership (of which the ancient world did not separate) in Jerusalem. They all had leaves so to speak. They looked the part and acted the part, but they were bearing absolutely no fruit. In fact, worse than that, they were bearing all of the WRONG fruit. Jesus’ action of cursing the tree was also a message to his disciples. The time for fruitlessness had passed, the time for God’s Kingdom had come. There was much work to be done. Bear fruit. Little did they know at the time, but the risen and ascended Jesus would send an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on them at Pentecost to help them accomplish just that.
In the Old Testament, we see the prophet Isaiah, as well as other prophets, calling out the religious and political leaders of their day. Through Isaiah, God denounced them, “Even an ox knows its owner, and a donkey recognizes its master’s care—but Israel doesn’t know its Master. My people don’t recognize My care for them. Oh, what a sinful nation they are—loaded down with a burden of guilt. They are evil people, corrupt children who have rejected the LORD. They have despised the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him.” (Isaiah 1:3-4 NLT)
In Jeremiah, the prophet scolded the King Jehoiakim of Judah when he proclaimed for the LORD, “’But a beautiful cedar palace does not make a great king! Your father, Josiah, also had plenty to eat and drink. But he was just and right in all his dealings. That is why God blessed him. He gave justice and help to the poor and needy, and everything went well for him. Isn’t that what it means to know Me?’ says the LORD. ‘But you! You have eyes only for greed and dishonesty! You murder the innocent, oppress the poor, and reign ruthlessly’” (Jeremiah 22:15-17 NLT).
Jesus not only carried on the prophetic tradition of holding the leaders accountable; rather, he was the fulfillment of the visions of the prophets who proceeded him. Christ’s coming was both a judgment on the world order, and a way to salvation for all who chose to heed God and follow God’s only son, who was himself was the incarnation of God. Immanuel. On that Holy Monday nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus held the leaders accountable. He pointed them to their hypocrisy and pronounced that their rejection of him was their rejection of God. As a result of their choosing to reject the cornerstone of God’s kingdom, Jesus Christ, God’s Holy Spirit had passed them by and left them desolate, just like the fig tree.
The time has come to bear fruit. The church is now in the same position of the leaders in Jesus’ day. We have a choice to accept Christ’s call on our lives and to bear fruit, or to continue on in complacency and ignore the very cornerstone of the Kingdom God is building. If we do the latter, the Holy Spirit will move on to those who will open their hearts to the presence and working of God. Let us not end up like the fig tree. Let us, rather, through the power of the Holy Spirit, witness to the fulfillment of God’s covenant and the coming of God’s Kingdom through Jesus Christ.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
The tree that produces little to no fruit is a dying tree.
Lord, prune the dead branches in my life so that I may continue to produce vibrant, hearty fruit for your Kingdom. Amen.