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Nothing But Leaves
Christ’s judgment on empty religion–Mark 11:12 to 21
What would you think if I said, “Curse you!” What is a curse? The dictionary says it’s a jinx, a hex, or a wish that some form of adversity or misfortune befall someone or something. The gossip rags describe curses like the curse of the Hope diamond, the curse of the Kennedys, the curse of the James Dean sports car, the 27-year-old curse on talent, the curse of King Tut’s tomb, the Superman curse.
But my favorite is the curse of the billy goat. This was when the Chicago team owner, Philip Wrigley, evicted tavern owner Billy Sianis and his Billy Goat Tavern mascot, a goat, from the World Series in Chicago, because Wrigley thought the goat smelled bad. Leaving angry, Billy said so eloquently and in excellent English, “Them Cubs, they aren’t gonna win no more.” True to his curse, the Cubs lost the Series that year in 1945, and have not appeared in another World Series since, even though the Cubs are one of the winningest teams in baseball.
The idea of a curse, an utterance made in order to invoke harm, is a superstitious speculation made by fearmongers. But in the case of Christ, His curse upon a tree and His judgment upon the great Jewish temple were meant to display God’s perfect justice, awesome holiness, and His wrath against sin. Our Lord is about to make a judgment upon the nation of Israel. In the shadow of the coming cross, Jesus lets us know what He thinks about first century Jewish religion and its leaders–and He does it by cursing a tree and cleaning out a temple in Mark 11:12 to 21.
Open your Bibles to Mark 11, and follow along in your outline as the Lord shows His wrath against false religion. From the outset–it is right for us to be gracious to Mormons, Catholics, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, all those of a false religion. But we must never forget, never forget–anyone who embraces those false beliefs will spend eternity in Hell. And that is part of why the Lord hates all false faiths.
As friends cling to a false faith, they’re holding on to the Titanic for safety, they’re flying on the Challenger for excitement, and they’re living at the base of Mount St. Helens for security–it is all going to end in eternal disaster. So to warn the Jewish people, and to warn you and I, the Lord is going to curse a tree and cleanse a temple.
Stand with me in honor of the inerrant, authoritative and sufficient Word of God, and read aloud with me verses 12 through 21 of Mark 11. “On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. 13 Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 He said to it, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again!’ And His disciples were listening.
15 Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves; 16 and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple. 17 And He began to teach and say to them, ‘Is it not written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations”? But you have made it a robbers’ den.’ 18 The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching.
19 When evening came, they would go out of the city. 20 As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 21 Being reminded, Peter said to Him, ‘Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.’”
There are some who try to explain away the Lord’s cursing of this tree, saying it’s not worthy of Jesus. Others are offended, saying it reminds them of a spoiled child who didn’t get his way. But let me remind you, when you disagree with the Word of God as written, guess who is wrong? You are! Christ is the Lord of creation, and Mark is going to show us today the wrath of Christ. The Lamb of God is also a Lion!
Listen, Jesus didn’t spitefully curse a tree simply because He was hungry. Christ could do without food–we know Christ fasted for forty days without food. The reason Jesus cursed the tree was so it would be a visual parable of the religion of the nation of Israel. There was a lot going on with Judaism, but there was no fruit. Judaism had become a false religion, and all false religion is nothing but leaves–no fruit, just leaves.
The Lord actually honors this tree, making it the most useful tree that ever grew. It was, and is a tree that has caused thousands to see the deadness of their own souls so they’d turn to Christ, or cause them to see the drift of their own hearts to become more like Christ. That tree did not wither in vain. And the tree cursing and temple cleansing communicate a similar truth–Jesus Christ hates false religion, and judgment is coming soon.
This destruction of a fig tree is the only destructive miracle in the gospels. It is an analogy and an illustration of the coming destruction of the temple. It is a preview of judgment, and a prediction of judgment. The fig tree is a prediction of the destruction of the temple by analogy. And the assault on the temple by Christ is a preview of the destruction of the temple by action. As you all know, the temple stands at the heart of Judaism. And the curse that comes on the fig tree and thus on the temple demonstrates that God is not pleased with the temple.
God is not pleased with the leaders of the temple. God is not pleased with the people who come to the temple. In a word, God is not pleased with Israel, and the temple is at the heart of Israel. If the temple is corrupt, then the nation is corrupt. So the Lord is going to judge false religion—and empty religion is like having a lot of leaves but no fruit.
When does all this happen? It is Tuesday of Passion Week. On Saturday, Jesus arrived in the vicinity of Jerusalem at the town of Bethany, about two miles to the east over the Mount of Olives. He stayed there on Saturday with His friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus–fresh back from his tour with the grateful resurrected dead. On Sunday, He remained in Bethany, and crowds of Jews came from Jerusalem who wanted to see Him, and also wanted to see the man who’d been raised from the dead.
On Monday, He enters the city for the week of the Passover, but it was a cosmetic coronation of the true King, which immediately fizzled. But before the Lord returned to Bethany, Mark tells us in verse 11 that Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple, and after looking around at everything, He left for Bethany. Our Lord didn’t like what He saw. He’d been to the temple many times. He even began His public ministry by attacking the temple. And now in verse 11, Jesus is preparing His action checklist for the next day.
So on Tuesday morning, the Lord is returning to the great temple with His disciples. But Jesus comes, not as the King of Israel to attack Rome like they wanted–He comes as the King of righteousness to attack the temple and their sinful hearts.
#1 Cursing the Tree
Christ’s judgment on false religion by analogy–verse 12, “On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry.” Jesus left the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus where He’d go each night to rest and sleep. But now, on Tuesday morning, He leaves their house, and Jesus is hungry. No breakfast? Probably not–as was His pattern, Jesus was probably up very early, praying. This is the most important week that has ever occurred. And Jesus knows He’s got a formidable day ahead of Him.
What He is about to do will take great human strength and incredible human energy, and He needs human food. He’s hungry—so as the Lord makes His way back to the temple, I’m certain His heart is racing with the passion He feels over the sacrilegious mess they’ve made of the temple. He knows He is going to go into that temple to take action. So the God-man needs to eat. He comes now as the Son of God, full of divine wrath. But He also comes as the Son of Man, hungry.
Look at verse 13, “Seeing at a distance [what?] a fig tree in leaf.” A fig tree in leaf was a good indication of what He could expect, because in the case of fig trees, the fruit comes first–then the leaves come second. The fruit first appears on a fig tree in March and April, at this time of year, at Passover. It should have had small fruits on it, very immature, but edible. The book of Hosea says those small fruits could be eaten when one was hungry.
The harvest season for figs, when they’re fully ripe in this region, is mid-August to October. That’s when they’d be big mature fruit. But if there were leaves, then there should’ve been some edible fruit, because the fruit comes before the leaves.
So Jesus sees the tree in leaf. It is by the side of the road, and not on someone’s property–probably a normal size fig tree, 20 feet high, 20 feet wide. They were all over Israel, and so common they became the symbol for Israel. When the spies came back from Canaan, they said the land was filled with treasures, and one of the treasures was the fig trees. And as a result, the Lord should normally expect some fruit to be on that tree.
So verse 13 continues, “Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it.” Jesus was right to expect some fruit, even though it wasn’t the full season for fruit yet. Verse 13, “and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.” So as He approaches the tree, Jesus found nothing but leaves, which is analogous of false religion—nothing but leaves, no fruit.
The fact that this particular fig tree had full foliage but bore no fruit, portrayed exactly what Jesus had seen in Jerusalem–in the temple, and in the hearts of the Israelites. And the Lord responds to this by speaking in parable. A metaphor, verse 14, He said to it, “’May no one ever eat fruit from you again!’” Matthew tells us more of what Christ said, Matthew 21:19, “Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, ‘No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.’”
The Lord pronounced a curse that killed the tree. It is the only destructive miracle in the gospels. How do you know it’s a curse? Look at verse 21, “Being reminded, Peter said to Him, ‘Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.’” The tree had the appearance of fruit, but it was barren–no reality, a false profession, a false promise of substance. The tree is a graphic illustration of the pretense of temple worship–religious leaves, but no genuine fruit.
The entire temple operation was nothing but leaves. The temple being cursed means destruction is pronounced on it, damnation is marked on it–and forty years later the Romans tore it apart so that not one stone stood on another. Turn to Luke 13, and look at a similar parable Luke 13:6 to 9. “’A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. 7 … he said to the vineyard-keeper, “Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?” 8 And he answered and said to him, “Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; 9 and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.”’”
Israel is the fruitless fig tree, and the Lord says, “I’m going to cut it down.” The plea is made, “Give it a little more time.” Well, more time has passed and there’s been no change, no repentance, no turning to Christ. So the parable of Mark 11 picks up where the parable of Luke 13 ends. The temple is a fruitless pretense of worship. That means that Judaism is spiritually bankrupt. The entire nation engulfed in that false religion is cursed by God.
Back in Mark 11 verse 14 it says, “He said to it, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again!’” And His disciples were listening. They were listening. Do you have any idea what they were thinking? What would I be thinking? I might be thinking of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus said, “By their fruits you shall know them.” I might also be thinking about Deuteronomy, that Israel’s disobedience would produce curse after curse after curse.
This is a curse–the direct application of the curse is the temple, but it expands to the temple leadership, the temple participants, and thus to the nation. The curse of the fig tree is showing Christ’s wrath toward the first century Jewish religion in analogy. Israel was a barren fig tree with only leaves–only the appearance of genuineness.
The magnificence of the temple only hid the fact that the Jewish people were far from God. They believed they could be righteous before God, when in reality they were only covering their sin with an eternal religious show–there was no dependent heart, no turning from sin, and no crying out for God to be merciful. And just to make certain they get it, Jesus makes it clear.
#2 Cleansing the Temple
Christ’s judgment on false religion by action. Verse 15, “Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple.” Having pronounced the tree curse, Jesus walked toward Jerusalem. As he approached the temple, picture what He actually saw. He saw one of the greatest buildings ever built—cream-colored, marble walls and gleaming gold inlay, illuminated by the morning sun.
He witnessed huge Passover crowds flowing up the steps to the great Court of the Gentiles, which was a walled, marble-paved area adjacent to the south side of the temple, the length of three football fields and some 250 yards wide. But in this area today, great throngs of people surged against the tables of the moneychangers, just like black Friday shoppers.
Exodus 30 commanded that a half-shekel be given by or for every male worshiper over twenty years of age. For this and all other offerings in the temple, foreign money (with all its idolatrous images) could not be used. So everyone had to exchange their money for Tyrian (temple) coins. Minted in Tyre, they were the coins the rabbis chose as the only acceptable half-shekel coin for the temple tax. But they also had to pay a charge for this exchange service, which was making the chief priests and scribes very wealthy. For every thirty-dollar coin, they had to pay an eight-dollar exchange fee. If it were today, for every Passover, that’s over sixteen-million dollars in fees.
At the temple, Jesus would also observe huge crowds lined up around stalls selling livestock, birds, wine, even salt for sacrifices. Last week we learned there were close to 2.5 million Jews from all over the world in town for the Passover. But instead of the temple being a place of quiet reflection, humble repentance or heart-driven praise, the courtyard was like a swap meet. From their stalls, merchants shouted at customers to buy here, noisy haggling, and pilgrims jostled one another to get the best deals.
The incredible noise and craziness was increased by the constant bawling of livestock. And this place of prayer was now heavily scented by the droppings of the livestock. They had turned the temple of God into a county fair and a livestock exchange–all rolled into one.
To top it off, the Court of the Gentiles was now being used as a thoroughfare, because it afforded the best crosstown route to the city markets from the Mount of Olives. Even though the Mishnah contained an ordinance aimed at forbidding anyone to enter the Temple Mount carrying a staff or a sandal or a wallet, or to use it as a shortcut, people still did so. The Court of the Gentiles had turned into such a crazy bazaar, no one gave thought to prayer, or song, or repentance or worship. And anyone burdened of soul would have found it impossible to meet the Lord in the midst of this continual riot.
The Lord saw this for what it was–a monstrous desecration of holy ground. The temple was not a flea market designed for profit. The temple was not an oriental bazaar, or a Winchester swap meet. So the Lord is preparing to demonstrate in action God’s curse on their mockery of the true faith, not merely analogy. Verse 15, “Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple.” Matthew adds, “The temple of God,” giving a dramatic contrast between God’s design for the temple, and the ungodly activity going on there.
The Lord was not going to attack Rome, nor would He elevate Israel like the populace wanted Him to do, in order to fulfill their messianic expectations. Rather Jesus set out to assault Israel right at its heart, where the judgment of God always seemed to fall—the temple, which reflects the nation of Israel.
When you study the history of the temple, you understand the history of Israel. This temple was a massive edifice. Before it was finally completed, it had been under construction for over eighty years. But the temple has a longer history than eighty years. In Genesis 22, Abraham is told by God to go to a very specific place, Mount Moriah, and there sacrifice his son Isaac. Then when he gets there, both father and son follow through on what God commands. God spares Isaac and provides a lamb–so that lamb is sacrificed on Mount Moriah.
Nine hundred years later it is that very same Mount Moriah which David purchases, on the east side of the great city of Jerusalem. Six years later, his son Solomon builds a massive temple on Mount Moriah, as the place where sacrifices are made. Solomon builds an awesome building, just as God designed it in 1 Chronicles and 1 Kings, as a monumental feat of construction, overlaid with gold, with all types of precious stones to glorify God. And it becomes the first temple.
Three hundred fifty years later the Babylonians destroyed Solomon’s temple, leveling it to the ground and stealing all its treasures. Why? Because God uses Babylon to bring divine judgment on false religion. Israel is apostate. Judaism is corrupt. The people are corrupt. The leaders are corrupt. The priests are corrupt. The shepherds are corrupt. The prophets are corrupt. The entire nation is corrupt. And because of idolatry, sin and unbelief this massive first temple is destroyed.
Seventy years later the people come back from captivity. They want a temple and are enabled by Zerubbabel to build a very modest temple, nothing like Solomon’s temple. And in 515 B.C., that second temple is finished. A few hundred years pass, and Antiochus, an evil ruler, desecrates temple number two by putting a statue of the god Jupiter inside the temple, and slaughtering pigs on the altar, thus paganizing it in order to intentionally infuriate the Jews.
They revolt and there’s a modest revival of temple worship three years later under a man named Judas Maccabees, but the Jewish religion continues to apostatize. They’ve stopped their idol worship since the destruction of the first temple, but apostasy, hypocrisy, superficiality, false worship continued to prevail in that second temple.
Twenty B.C. comes along, and Herod the Great, an Idumaean king decides he’ll be the man who’ll build a spectacular temple–and so we get the third temple. This is the temple of Mark 12. From 20 B.C. to 64 A.D., about 84 years, Herod builds this temple. Seventy A.D., six years after it’s finished, the Romans come and smash it to the ground, leaving not one stone left on top of another and plundered it again, as it had been plundered in the past.
The story of the temple is the story of Israel’s repeated cycle of apostasy. Once they leave dependent faith and step into external religion, hypocrisy and superficiality God brings judgment–and that judgment will be pointed at the heart of Israel, the temple. When that third temple was finally destroyed by Titus, the Roman general in 70 A.D.–since then, and to this day, there has never been a temple rebuilt in Jerusalem.
Will the temple be rebuilt? Yes. There will be a fourth temple in the time of the Tribulation. Daniel 9:27 tells us that temple will also be desecrated, this time by the Antichrist who will commit what is called the abomination of desolation. False worship again! Finally, there will be a fifth temple, and that temple will be full of glory. It’s the temple described in Ezekiel 43 as the temple of the Messiah in the Millennial Kingdom. Again, you can track the history of Israel by the story of the temple.
Three years earlier at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he had made a whip out of cords and cleansed the temple. Yesterday, he made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, received the hallelujahs of the people, wept over the city, then as verse 11 says, “He went to the temple to look around.” Jesus has shown God’s anger at self-righteous religion in analogy by cursing the fig tree, and now Jesus will display God’s anger at self-righteous external religion by cleansing the temple in action.
As Jesus enters, He’s assaulted by a carnival-like atmosphere. His “Father’s House” was again being desecrated. In His righteous indignation, He casts out the buyers and sellers. The whole thing is a disgrace. There was profit, but no passion for God–big business, but no brokenness.
The world has entered into worship. Verses15 and 16, “and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves; 16 and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple.” The temple was where God was worshipped, adored, praised. The temple was where those crushed of heart could come to find comfort. The temple was where God’s name would be exalted. The temple was the place where atonement was made, sacrifices were given, sin was appeased, wrath subdued and God’s mercy and grace found.
Remember what has happened here on this exact spot. Solomon prayed and God’s glory filled the temple. Isaiah saw His vision of God being “Holy! Holy! Holy!” This temple was the center of all true worship. The temple is the place to come before God–it is holy. But now all this sacrilege was taking place right before Jesus’ eyes. The Lord agonized as He watched this circus taking place in this holy place.
Like the first time Jesus cleansed the temple it said, “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:17). Consume in Greek is, “eat me up”, and in Hebrew it means, “burn up in flames”. Jesus is burning up with zeal for the Lord’s House. None of the gospels indicate Jesus used a whip this time, as he had the first time. But it is obvious the Lord used force in driving out those who were misusing the House of God. I’m sure there was shouting and resistance, but Jesus prevailed. Have you ever seen a table flipped over? It is a violent act.
And to top it off, we see Jesus halting the traffic of those who were using the Court of Gentiles as a shortcut. Again the Temple Mount was so large, it was quicker to cut through the temple to get to the markets than to go around, adding to the circus atmosphere. So Jesus, verse 16, “and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple.” So much for those feminine-looking paintings of Christ–only meek. He is overturning tables, He is stopping traffic, selling has come to a halt–and no one can stop Him.
It isn’t surprising to read verse 17, “And He began to teach and say to them, ‘Is it not written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations”? But you have made it a robbers’ den.’” Two Old Testament passages are quoted as our Lord powerfully instructs those present at the temple. The first is from Isaiah 56:7, “’Even those I will bring to My holy mountain. And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.’”
The temple was to be a place where God is worshipped, revered, adored, praised and a place of prayer–a place to meet the one true God, to commune, to pray, to seek Him, praise Him, thank Him, confess sin and repent. It’s a place of intimacy with the Lord God–a place of prayer. And God says in verse 17 is to be for all peoples, not merely the Jews. See it in verse 17, “For all nations”—the temple was for Gentiles as well.
You see, Israel got the notion they were the sole recipients of God’s blessing. But the truth is, they were called to take the truth of God to the ends of the earth, Psalm 67. But they grew to hate the Gentiles. They had a Jonah attitude. They didn’t want to go to the Gentiles–they didn’t want the Gentiles to believe. They didn’t want the Gentiles aligned with them, nor worshiping the same God as them.
That was one reason why the Church came into existence, because God’s chosen nation refused to be a witness, and they wanted nothing to do with the nations. So the Lord carved out a new people made of Jew and Gentile, the Church–and we’re to share the Gospel to the ends of the earth. That’s the Great Commission–to do what Israel refused to do.
From the very beginning, when the temple was completed, it was to be a place of worship for all the nations. And think about it, where else could Gentiles go in the Old Testament? Where else could a Gentile go to find God? The world was spiritually dark. They didn’t have temples in their own lands. Where could he go? The temple was the only place where a Jew or a Gentile could go. It’s ironic, isn’t it? The popular messianic expectations of the Jews looked for the Messiah to rid the temple of the Gentiles (especially the Romans). But Jesus’ action here actually criticizes the Jewish leadership for hindering the Gentiles from having access to the temple.
Then the end of verse 17, “’But you have made it a robbers’ den.’” But you all have turned it into a commercial palace of greed. Quoting Jeremiah 7:11, “’Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your sight? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,’ declares the Lord.” History is repeating itself in the life of Israel, now in the time of Christ.
Jesus pronounced a divine judgment upon Israel by cursing a fig tree, then illustrated this judgment by cleansing the temple. The temple was just like the fruitless fig tree. It showed signs of life externally, but internally produced no fruit. Externally, the temple was an impressive organization, making a big show of religion. But under the eye of Jesus Christ, it was superficial–making a mockery of God’s design.
How did the religious leaders react? Remember our Lord is pressing them to bring about His planned sacrifice on Friday. Look at verse 18, “The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching.” The leaders are livid, and now they will get the job done. Somehow, they are going to murder Jesus.
But they’re fearful too, because Jesus is so popular. The people of Jerusalem were literally “knocked out of their senses” by His teaching. So they couldn’t carry out their plan to kill Jesus immediately–they could not act at that moment. So what happened? Verse 19, “When evening came, they would go out of the city.”
It was not Passover, the perfect Lamb of God could not yet be sacrificed for the sins of His children. God’s wrath couldn’t yet be poured out on Christ on our behalf. Christ could not yet be our substitute, so our sin could fall on Him and His righteousness could be given to us. It was not yet time for Christ to be die on the cross for our sins as the Passover Lamb. The crowd loved Christ still, the religious leaders hated Christ still. But God’s timing was not yet. So verse 19, “When evening came, they would go out of the city.” They went back to Bethany for the night.
What happened the next morning–it got even hotter. Wednesday AM, look at verses 20 and 21, “As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 21 Being reminded, Peter said to Him, ‘Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.’” Mark is detailed. He tells us the tree is withered from the roots, emphasizing the totality of its destruction. A graphic warning–a fig tree full of foliage one moment was completely dead and dry the next. The disciples never forgot it–I believe they understood.
They saw the tree symbolizing the temple–cursed to the core. Jesus condemned Judaism at its heart–at its temple. What about worship then? Where will people worship now? The destruction of the old system began on Tuesday and it continued on Friday, when the temple curtain between the outer area and the Holy of Holies was ripped from top to bottom. And it was finished forty years later by the Romans. So where will people worship now? Where will they meet God now?
True worship is possible, but not at the temple anymore–but only at the cross. Only through Christ–there is no other place to go now to worship the one true God. The failed system is gone, and now the only way anyone worships God on this planet is through Jesus Christ alone. What does this mean for us?
1 Beware of focusing only on external appearance
The fig tree was meant to be a visual parable to Israel, and a visual example to the Church–to you. Just because you look good–just because your leaves are large and shiny doesn’t mean you’re bearing fruit that’s pleasing to God.
Beware of seeking to please God in your own strength–in your flesh
Beware of talking one way at church, then screaming at your kids
Beware of thanking God here, but being unthankful at work
Beware of living one way with Christians, and another way with others
Is there any difference between “Hallelujahs” quickly turning to “Crucify Him”, and us singing His praise here then complaining at home? Not much!
Beware of being concerned only about external appearance
2 Remember the Lamb is also a Lion
The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is also the Lion of the tribe of Judah! Revelation 6:16 speaks of the wrath of the Lamb. As the Lamb, among other truths, Christ manifests the qualities of gentleness, humility and meekness. If He were only the Lamb, I could see how people could treat Him casually, attend church occasionally, interrupt worship repeatedly, disobey him frequently.
But as the Lion, I’m amazed how casually Christians treat Christ. Never forget, this same Lamb is also the Lion, manifesting the ferocity of Christ’s anger and wrath. Jesus Christ is the same judge who will condemn all those who do not follow Him in this life. Lions are creatures to be feared and respected, friends. Never forget, you follow the Lion of Judah.
3 Holiness should cause you to live differently in this life
Holiness is a divine obsession of your Master, Jesus Christ. God was intense when He said in Leviticus 19:2, “‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.’” And, you see that same intensity when Jesus overturns tables and stops traffic through the temple.
You too, as individual temples of His Spirit, are called to holiness. We’re commanded to honor God with our bodies, meaning our lives should reflect holiness, which not only includes obedience to the Word of God but a hatred of the sins of thought, attitude, or behavior. Jesus means business when it comes to holiness–do you?
4 Don’t merely attend church–meet with Christ
Jesus said, quoting Isaiah 56:7, “’My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.’” The main purpose for the Court of the Gentiles was to be a place where Gentiles could seek God. As it was in Christ’s day, it was impossible to concentrate on anything, much less pray or worship. This desecration of the Court of the Gentiles was a national sin against God, and it was a sin against all lost people in the world. When the temple became a swap meet to fuel the greed of the religious leaders, all true Jews and every other person on earth lost their opportunity to seek the Lord and worship the one true God.
It is good we come as we are at FBC. It’s really good we love others and reach out to those we don’t know. It is great that we care about each other on Sundays. But it is never good to distract others from genuine worship–to joke with our friends, continually get up during the service, play with our phones, make comments about distracting issues–or keep others on the patio when they should be in worship.
We are here to meet with Christ. Our corporate worship must be authentic and from the heart. When we hear God’s Word, we must listen as if our lives depended on it. When we sing praise, we must never forget who we sing to. When we give, we offer our selves. When we pray, we mean what we say. Do not merely come to church–never forget we’re here to meet with Christ.
One writer has said worship is “to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.” Are you here to worship the Christ who cleansed the temple and cursed the tree? Are you here to worship Christ, or merely attend church?
5 Christ is coming again–are you ready to meet your Judge?
Christ demonstrated His uncompromising willingness to judge in the cleansing of the temple. But one day soon, everyone who’s ever lived, including each of you here, will face Christ as your holy Judge. Read 2 Timothy 4:1, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom.”
When you stand before Him, if there is just one sin, one wrong word, one bad attitude, one bad behavior, perfect holiness will require Christ to send you to Hell. And the only way to escape is to hate your sins, turn from them, depend on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross from your sins, believe He rose from the dead and follow Him with your life. Will you be condemned forever in Hell, or will you follow the One who was condemned in your place?