New Beginnings: See? I Am Doing a New Thing!—God
For our 2018 Lenten we have been viewing the season through the lens of our 2017 Advent theme, “New Beginnings: See? I Am Doing a New Thing!—God.” Holy Week (a.k.a., “Passion Week”) began on Palm Sunday, which marked Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem with the crowds’ Rejoicing. Additionally, we have shifted our focus from examining elements of our Christian walk to highlighting the Christ’s timeline from Palm Sunday to His Crucifixion. For Holy Monday we noted that there seemed to be some inconsistency regarding when Jesus cleansed the Temple (for the second time in His ministry)—did this take place after His Triumphal Entry into the Holy City or did it take place on the Monday?
I also shared some information that may account for the discrepancy, that is the First Century Jewish day/night cycles [were from] sundown to sundown, whereas the Galilean Jews commonly calculated their cycles from sunup to sunup. [Information courtesy of Dr. Doug Bookman of ]. The other two events that occurred were: 1) on the way from Bethany to Jerusalem, Jesus saw a fig tree in the distance. When He inspected it, there were no figs on it; and He cursed it because it lacked fruit; and 2) He wept over Jerusalem. Christ was heartbroken that in spite of His great compassion for His people, they rejected the love and new life that He was offering. In the evening, Jesus and the disciples returned to Bethany for the night, where they probably stayed at the home of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary.
As we have seen, these last days of Christ were still very busy. He could have gone off somewhere for a few days—like we sometimes do when we need a break from all the voices sending demands and expectations our way. But that wasn’t Jesus’ style. Instead, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd,” (Matthew 9:36). So on the Tuesday morning, Jesus and the disciples again travelled to Jerusalem.
On their way, the disciples noticed the same fig tree that Christ had cursed the day before: it was completely withered. The disciples were amazed! Yet, given all the incredible miracles they had seen in the three years that they travelled with the Master, why should this one have been so surprising to them? Jesus taught them about faith, stating, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer,” (Matthew 21:22). But why did Jesus curse the fig tree? We have a Jane magnolia shrub/tree. The unique aspect of this tree is that the beautiful, pink, tulip-shaped blooms appear on it before there is any leaf activity. Still, even after the leaves appear, we may still find some blooms if we look closely enough. Christ experienced something similar with the fig tree: the fruit appeared before the leaves, but if one examined it closely, there might still be some of the green-coloured fruit with the leaves. When there was none, He cursed it. I have heard or read several valid explanations for why Jesus cursed the fig tree: 1) because He was hungry and disappointed there was no fruit to eat; 2) that it was a symbolic reference that condemned Israel’s spiritual condition; and, 3) that it denounces those who claim to be Christians but lack the ‘fruit’ to support that they have a relationship with Him (see Galatians 5: 22-23).
Arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus again went to the Temple. There the chief priests and elders questioned His authority to teach. On this occasion, they were looking for an excuse to arrest and kill Him. Instead, Christ pronounced judgment on them and warned the people against them. Leaving the Temple, Jesus and His disciples went to Mount Olives, where He spent time teaching them and preparing for them for what lay ahead. Again, they retired to Bethany for the night.
That same evening, Judas approached the Sanhedrin and arranged to betray Jesus (see Matthew 26: 14-16).
Suggested Scripture Passages:
Matthew 21:23–24:51, Mark 11:20–13:37, Luke 20:1–21:36, and John 12:20–38
Blessings & Peace
Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor) Canada