And so we’ve come to the beginning of the end. Jesus has been moving to this point, unimpeded and without interruption. Mark has presented his moving from Capernaum, the starting place of his ministry, to Jerusalem, the ending place. His entry into Jerusalem (vv. 1-11) which we celebrate on Palm Sunday, begins the proximate series of events that will lead to the culmination on Calvary which we celebrate on Good Friday. The shouts of “Hosanna” and the waving of the palm branches are bittersweet and filled with irony.
But, as to this chapter, there is much happening here. Jesus cleanses the temple of cheaters in vv. 15-19- a prefiguring of the newness that Jesus will usher in with his Resurrection and his institution of both the Eucharist and the Church.
The lesson of the fig tree is similar in nature (vv. 12-14 and explained in vv. 20-26). The fig tree is a tradition symbol for Israel. The fact that Jesus orders one to wither is an indication of their unwillingness to believe it the Gospel of Repentance that he has been preaching. By cleansing the Temple in vv. 15-19 Jesus is indicating that something new is being ushered in amidst the withered old fig trees. The application here for us is that we don’t want to be the withered fig tree. We want to be nourished and sustained by the Lord- like a vine to a branch.
The final part of this chapter is an altercation with the Pharisees once Jesus is inside Jerusalem (vv. 27-33). We have the Pharisees demanding a sign from Jesus that he has the authority to do the things that he has been doing and so they put up a question to Jesus. Jesus, being smarter than the average bear, speaks and teaches with an authority that even the Pharisees cannot comprehend. So, Jesus enters into dialogue with them, but the fullness of his exchanges with them doesn’t come until the parables that Jesus teaches the Pharisees in chapter 12. So, in a way, we have to wait for Monday. But, suffice it here to say, Jesus will now tell the Pharisees what he has told his disciples and his apostles: Jesus has arrived at the moment when the old establishment, represented by the cleansing of the temple and the withered fig tree, will be done away with, and something new, represented by the Eucharist and Church, will be instituted by Jesus- definitely and eternally.
Point for Prayer
Dear Jesus of the spiritual absolutes, show me how to take my whole mind and focus it on total belief in you. Enlighten my will so that I can totally trust you. Enlarge my heart so I can love you without reserve. Empower my spiritual strength to the point where I am willing to give all my strength to hoping in you. Amen. (From To Love and Be Loved By Jesus, by Father Alfred McBride, pg. 107).