Easter Explained – Part 2
From You Version

  • Psalm 12
  • Micah 7:1-7
  • Matthew 21:18-22
  • For the last 1,600 years, Christians around the world remember the last days of Jesus’ life during Holy Week. Today is Holy Tuesday. Holy Tuesday remembers the day Jesus curses a fig tree and it withers down to the root.Israel, and in particular her priests and temple, were God’s intended plan to extend his love and blessing to all nations. But the priests of Jesus’ day made it impossible for foreigners to worship God (Matthew 21:13). The faith of the religious elite had departed from its original purpose and was now a dead religion. Yesterday we remembered how Jesus, with a whip in hand, challenged the religious establishment of Israel.Like Jesus, the prophets of the Hebrew Bible often spoke against Israel’s priests and their leadership of the temple. Many, like the prophet Micah, described them as diseased trees that from a distance looked healthy, but close up were rotten and infertile (Micah 7:1-7). So the next morning, when Jesus sees a fig tree with no fruit on it, he curses it and it withers (Matthew 21:19). It’s a prophetic symbol to his disciples that the current leadership of Israel’s temple has forgotten its purpose. It is corrupt, dead, and must be destroyed.The disciples miss the symbolism and only ask how the fig tree withered so quickly. Jesus replies, ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done’ (Matthew 21:21).But Jesus isn’t explaining how the disciples can go and curse their own fig tree or throw their problems into the ocean. He’s telling them how the religious establishment of Israel will fall. When the disciples pray in faith, the mountain that the temple is built on will crumble. Through the disciples’ faith, Israel’s corrupt leadership will fall. Jesus has come to cleanse the temple of its dead religion, and Jesus expects his disciples to share that responsibility. They are part of his rebellion against the corrupt religious status quo.In the verses following today’s passage, the religious leaders question what right Jesus has to claim the end of their temple system (Matthew 21:23). Jesus responds over and over again with stories and parables that reveal their corruption (Matthew 21:33-46). And then, like the prophets before him, Jesus predicts the destruction of Israel’s temple by an invading army (Matthew 24:1-2). The religious leaders of Israel can’t take it any more and continue their schemes to kill Jesus (Matthew 26:3-4).Holy Tuesday is good news because Jesus announces the end of a corrupt religious order and the dawning of a new global people of God. And more than that, he invites us to join him in both rejecting dead religion and creating a new and indestructible Church. And Jesus says the way we both do battle and build is through prayer.When we ask God, in faith, to tear down dead religion, he will. And when we ask God to build in its place a global Church that cannot be destroyed, he will do that too. And God guarantees these prayers will be answered in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Because Jesus dies, we know that all dead religion will one day be judged for its failures. But because Jesus rose from the dead, we know that in its place Jesus is making a new temple, called the Church, that can never be destroyed, not even by death.So I pray that on this Holy Tuesday you will accept that Jesus is creating a new religious order in us. And that by faith we can join Jesus in building a Church that death, corruption, or the schemes of men will never destroy.

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