Day 297 (Oct. 24): People doubt Jesus, dying fig tree used as a symbol, Jesus clears temple of ‘business,’ church leaders question Jesus’s authority

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

John 12:37-50

Mark 11:12-14

Matthew 21:18-22

Mark 11:15-19

Matthew 21:12-17

Luke 19:45-48

Mark 11:20-25

Mark 11:27-33

Matthew 21:23-27

Luke 20:1-8

Questions & Observations

Q. (John 12:46): So, is Jesus saying here that as long as we believe in our heart that He is our Savior, the Son of God, that we will be saved whether we obey the laws or not?

A. I would say that is a good bit outside of the proper scope of the verse.  (Leigh An: Hey, A for effort!) Jesus is talking here about the transition from darkness to light, and it does not just have to do with the afterlife, but rather is about changing the course of life RIGHT NOW.

As to the “not obeying the law” which is again well outside of what I would conclude FROM THIS VERSE, I would say this.  Christians are not under an obligation to keep the Law (this will be a big theme of the rest of the NT), but that does not mean that there is not wisdom in doing so to the best of our abilities and with God’s help.  Also, don’t forget the major emphasis that Jesus has been teaching us: those that belong to Him will keep His commands (the Law), not because they are obligated to, but because they desire to follow after Him.  One other thing: part of the reason that Jesus came into the world was to save us from our inability to follow the Law perfectly on our own: so really, NO ONE can truly obey the Law.  That’s why we need Jesus in the first place.

Q. (Mark 11:12-14, Matthew 21:18-22): I know I should ponder this fig tree message a little more to figure it out.  But, Rob, I think I’ll lean on you to explain how Jesus is using it to illustrate a point.  … Ok, on second reading, I may have got it.  If you don’t use your talents and spread the Word of God, you will be useless.  If you don’t bear fruit (produce more believers) then you may as well not be around.  How’s that?

A. Since the story is lumped in with the cleansing of the Temple (within the normal reading narrative), this story is typically seen as a statement of judgment against the failures of Israel, and especially its leadership.  But the point certainly applies to us as well: be fruitful (not just in the number of people you tell the gospel to, though that is an important part of it), or you risk being cut down.

Q. (Mark 11:15-19, Matthew 21:12-17, Luke 19:45-48): It seems Jesus may have been at His wit’s end.  I find it admirable that He stands His ground and defends the place of worship for His father.  I had always thought that He was mad at the Temple becoming a place for others to make money.  But also, on the flipside, if “worshippers” are buying their sacrifices at the Temple, it takes the meaning out of sacrifice.  Sure, they are buying them and that takes a sacrifice of money.  But also, they are supposed to take from the best from their flocks and fields.  I don’t think buying them from the Temple sellers would suffice?

A. Jesus’ real concern here (not implicit in the text) is the exchanges that are going on, and likely the money that is being made off of the pilgrims coming to the city.  In the Temple, the Jewish leadership refused to accept Roman coins (for fairly obvious reasons, which I think are good ones), but you had to pay a fee to exchange your money for “clean” Jewish coins!  Surely this is not what God desires out of such a holy place.  The other issue is the Temple rulers had the right to say, “this animal you have brought all these miles to the city is not acceptable for sacrifice,” even if the animal really was allowed.  The rulers would say, “I’m sorry, this animal is no good, but we do have our own ‘certified’ animals you can buy”.  It was a truly twisted and exploitive scheme, and it is no surprise that Jesus reacted very strongly to people being exploited in God’s house in order to make money.

Q. (Mark 11:22-25): I like these instructions for prayer!  When I pray, I mostly give thanks for all of my many blessings.  Many times, I overlook the muck in my heart that I need to ask forgiveness for.  I have to admit, there’s not much in there, so God has been working in me.  I hope this blog has been helping everyone who reads it!

A. That certainly goes for me as well.

Q. (Mark 11:27-33, Matthew 21:23-27, Luke 20:1-8): Jesus saw this as a trick by the leading priests that they were trying to find something to accuse Him of and arrest Him?

A. Something like that.  A Rabbi would have had to produce some sort of “credentials” to verify that he was from a proper “school” of Rabbinic thought.  That’s what they are asking Jesus for, His credentials.  But Jesus is not of any “school” that these rulers have seen, and He twists their desire to shame Him via authority back upon them by using John the Baptist.

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