The next morning as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. He noticed a fig tree in full leaf a little way off, so he went over to see if he could find any figs. But there were only leaves because it was too early in the season for fruit. Then Jesus said to the tree, “May no one ever eat your fruit again!” And the disciples heard him say it.
When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”
When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him. But they were afraid of him because the people were so amazed at his teaching.
That evening Jesus and the disciples left the city.
In the days following His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus continued to teach in the temple, with the religious leaders nearby. As Jesus noticed the barren fig tree and turned over tables in the temple, He compared the fruitlessness of the fig tree with the danger of practicing empty religion. Standing in a place where others could overhear Him, Jesus warned the disciples to beware of the religious leaders.
Jesus taught: “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be more severely punished” (Mark 12:38-40, NLT).
They dressed themselves up so they could look important. They loved being greeted in the marketplace because it made them feel important. They helped themselves to the best seats in the synagogue and at the feasts so everyone could see just how important they were.
They prayed long prayers so others would know how religious they were, and yet they took advantage of widows. In their quest to appear perfect, were they true to the faith they professed?
Jesus didn’t mince words. In passages like Luke 11:37-54, He called them hypocrites. Instead of loving and serving others, they made sure others served them. Jesus promised they would be punished.
Part of being authentic is self-awareness. We are more like the religious leaders than we would like to admit. We have that same tendency to try to appear holy by doing religious things, yet not allowing Jesus to change us to be like Him. And though very few of us would identify as hypocrites, we want others to think more highly of us. Sometimes we forget to care enough about what God thinks of us.
As you prepare for Easter, remember that Jesus loves you as you are. He’s not asking you to clean up your act before coming to Him. You can bring your real self to Him. He knows all about your thoughts and actions.
But Jesus also loves us so much that He doesn’t leave us in our sin and brokenness. His love for you includes the parts of you that hurt and the parts that aren’t yet what you wish they were. He offers forgiveness and hope to all those who come to him in their sin — just as they are. Allow His grace to lay the firm foundation for your life. And as you follow Him, He promises to transform you to be like Him — giving you the ability to produce real fruit by radiating love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22).
As you prepare for Easter, how can you turn your eyes toward Jesus? How can you face Him honestly and care more about what He thinks of you than what others think about you?
What is God’s grace? Explore more about what His grace is and why we all desperately need it.
Anne Marie Winz has followed Christ for 50 years. She’s married to Mark, has two adult children and enjoys teaching, drinking coffee and birding. She’s also a staff member with Cru.
As a follower of Jesus, you can have confidence through His resurrection that your sins are forgiven. Everything Jesus promised in His teachings you can trust to be true. You are a child of God, and you will live forever with Him.
If you’ve lived long enough, you’ve experienced dark moments when you’ve felt alone. When the power of death felt present in your life. When you’ve been without. Easter Saturday, and the words of Isaiah, remind us that Jesus, too, experienced what we do.
Reflect with us on what Jesus endured and why He died.
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