Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Encounter at the Temple

Moed Ministries International
The video version of this teaching is available at:

The scripture reading for this teaching is Mark 11:12-21
Yeshua traveled to Jerusalem and specifically to the Temple many times in his lifetime.  The earliest account recorded in the gospels is when He is just twelve years old and astounds the scribes and Pharisees with His knowledge of the scriptures.
Luke 2:46-47 NKJV 46 Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.
Throughout the gospels, the Temple is a central focal point of Yeshua’s ministry as well as the center of Jewish faith and practices of the day.  Yeshua observes all the festivals and holidays by making the pilgrimage from His headquarters in the Galilee to Jerusalem.  Along the road He constantly brings the message of repentance for the kingdom of God is at hand.
But this time, as He approaches Jerusalem from the East, something was different.  Yeshua stops and weeps over the city as it comes into view from atop the Mount of Olives. Before entering the city, he approaches a fig tree looking for its fruit, and seeing none, He curses the fig tree, forbidding it from bearing fruit in the future.  What is different about this trip to Jerusalem?  Why does Yeshua weep when He sees the city?  And what is the significance of cursing the fig tree?

The curse of the fig tree, which we discussed at length in our last teaching was, in essence a prophetic sign of the judgement that was to come upon the city and the Jewish people.  It was not, as much of Christianity has taught, a repudiation of the Old Testament, of Judaism and Jewish religious practices, but was a judgment on that generation for their failure to repent and return to God.
Up to this time Yeshua’s entire ministry was about repentance and the kingdom of God, not only coming but being obtainable in the here and now. But this generation had failed to repent, and disaster was no longer avoidable.  The cursing of the fig tree harkens back to a parable involving a fig tree.
Luke 13:6-9 NKJV 6 He also spoke this parable: "A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 "Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, 'Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?' 8 "But he answered and said to him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 'And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.'"
Just as the owner of the vineyard and the fig tree in this parable searched for the fruit of the tree, so too was the Master Yeshua looking to find the first fruit of the fig tree that day.
This prophetic sign was not unlike those of the prophets of old; Jeramiah and his belt, Ezekiel with two sticks, etc.  The words of the prophet Micha may have come to the mind of the disciples when Yeshua encountered the fig tree.
Micah 7:1-3 NKJV 1 Woe is me! For I am like those who gather summer fruits, Like those who glean vintage grapes; There is no cluster to eat Of the first-ripe fruit which my soul desires. 2 The faithful man has perished from the earth, And there is no one upright among men. They all lie in wait for blood; Every man hunts his brother with a net. 3 That they may successfully do evil with both hands-The prince asks for gifts, The judge seeks a bribe, And the great man utters his evil desire; So they scheme together.
Yeshua was looking for repentance and righteousness in this generation, but what He found was violence, corruption and greed.  Yeshua did not curse the fig tree out of anger at not finding something to eat, but to illustrate the failure of this generation to bear the fruit of repentance.
Habakkuk 3:16-17 NKJV 16 When I heard, my body trembled; My lips quivered at the voice; Rottenness entered my bones; And I trembled in myself, That I might rest in the day of trouble. When he comes up to the people, He will invade them with his troops. 17 Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls-
At this point, the Jewish people had a long history of failing to follow God and His Torah.  Many times judgment had befallen them.  The temple had already been destroyed once before and the people exiled from the land. Their more recent iniquity dated back to the time of the Hasmonaean kings, an era that was filled with civil wars where many thousands of Jews were killed in battles between rival factions and contenders for the throne.
Under the current Roman rule, the violence and corruption continued.  The Herodians and Hellenists, themselves Jews, brought a mixing of the culture and pagan practices of Greeks and a blending of the worship of idols with the worship of God.  All this being the very same things which resulted in past judgments and exile.
With the failure of this generation to repent, the coming judgment was inevitable.  Yeshua stood on the Mount of Olives, with a panoramic view of Jerusalem before him, and He wept! This generation did not recognize their peril; they refused to heed the call to repentance; they did not recognize the day of their visitation!
Following Yeshua’s triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem, He proceeded to the Temple to have a look around.  He would have observed that the southern portico had been transformed into a market place.  It was the beginning of the preparations for Passover.  Thousands of pilgrims were already arriving.  The temple courts would be filled with people looking to purchase their Passover lambs and other sacrificial items.  The annual Temple Tax of the half Shekel was due and by order of the Sanhedrin, could only be paid with a certain type of coin not in common circulation.  Money changers were present to make the exchange of currency convenient but somewhat expensive. The apostle John describes the scene.
John 2:13-14 NKJV 13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business.
After Yeshua’s initial observations, He returned to Bethany with the rest of His disciples for the night.
Mark 11:11 NKJV 11 And Jesus went into Jerusalem and into the temple. So when He had looked around at all things, as the hour was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve.
The next morning Yeshua returned to the Temple and began to throw out the merchants and money changers.
Mark 11:15-17 NKJV 15 So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 16 And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. 17 Then He taught, saying to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it a 'den of thieves.'"
Contrary to much of the traditional church teaching, Yeshua did not object to the temple worship practices and, by extension, the sacrificial system.  On the contrary He upheld it!  His actions go to the heart of this unrepentant generation and the judgment that awaits them. Yeshua sought to cleanout the Temple, His Father’s house, of the blatant commercialism and corruption which had taken up residence there. Just as with the practices of the days of preparation before Passover, where one’s home is cleaned of all leaven, Yeshua was cleansing His Father’s house of the leaven, that is the sin, which was present in its courts.
Merchants in the Temple courts would provide livestock, grain, flour, oil, and wine for libations, selling them at a premium to the arriving pilgrims.  The items sold by these merchants would have been “pre-approved” by the priests thereby avoiding the long and arduous process of have one’s own supply “certified” by the priests for use as their sacrifices and offerings.
These merchants and moneychangers operated under license of the high priest and charged a large fee with profits lining the pockets of the high priest, his co-conspirators, and other high-ranking officials.
It probably took some time for Yeshua to go through the Temple courts, chasing the merchants and scattering the moneychangers. and all that time, no one laid a hand on Him. News of Yeshua’s rampage through the Temple courts quickly reached the high priest and the religious leaders.
Mark 11:18-19 NKJV 18 And the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His teaching. 19 When evening had come, He went out of the city.
Yeshua was certainly not the only one to have objections to the rampant marketing and commercialization of the Temple.  Those of His followers who came to Jerusalem with Him on this journey up from Jericho would also have been at the temple that morning preparing for their own Passover celebration.  They would certainly have witnessed Yeshua’s rampage through the Temple courts and perhaps even cheered Him on.
The Pharisees, who were bitter rivals of the Sadducees, and especially of Annas and his son-in-law Caiaphas, the current high priest, were not unhappy with Yeshua’s actions and probably supported it in some ways as well.
Yeshua’s disruption of the merchants and moneychangers was a direct assault on the corrupt leadership of the high priest and the Sanhedrin. The prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel wrote of the corruption of the high priesthood.
Jeremiah 6:12-13 NKJV 12 And their houses shall be turned over to others, Fields and wives together; For I will stretch out My hand Against the inhabitants of the land," says the LORD. 13 "Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them, Everyone is given to covetousness; And from the prophet even to the priest, Everyone deals falsely.
And the prophet Ezekiel:
Ezekiel 22:26 NKJV 26 "Her priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and the unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them.
Some forty years later, during the first Jewish revolt, the corrupt Sadducees were all but wiped out when they became the first targets of the Zealots.  They were killed for their collusion with the Romans.
Yeshua’s cleaning out of His Father’s house calls to mind Psalm 69:9
Psalms 69:9 NKJV 9 Because zeal for Your house has eaten me up, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.
Much of traditional church doctrine looks upon Yeshua’s actions in the Temple that day as a disdain for the Temple and its practices. But just the opposite is the case.  Yeshua’s love for the Temple is what is demonstrated by His actions!  The prophet Malachi speaks of the refining fire of the Messiah.
Malachi 3:1-5 NKJV 1 "Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming," Says the LORD of hosts. 2 "But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire And like launderer's soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the LORD An offering in righteousness. 4 "Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem Will be pleasant to the LORD, As in the days of old, As in former years. 5 And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness Against sorcerers, Against adulterers, Against perjurers, Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, And against those who turn away an alien-Because they do not fear Me," Says the LORD of hosts.
The Master Yeshua quoted the prophet Isaiah to declare the Court of the Gentiles to be a sanctified and holy part of the Temple.  This area was a more recent addition to the Temple mount, and was built by Herod the Great. Perhaps Annas and Caiaphas justified holding a public market there because it was outside the boundaries of the original Temple area. Yeshua was demonstrating that the Court of the Gentiles, by its very nature and existence was a fulfilment of the Isaiah prophecy.
Isaiah 56:6-7 NKJV 6 "Also the sons of the foreigner Who join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, And to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants-Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, And holds fast My covenant- 7 Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations."
Clearly Yeshua was declaring the court of the Gentiles was indeed a sanctified part of His Father’s house!
After He had finished his work of clearing out the merchants and moneychangers, Yeshua began to teach.
Mark 11:17 NKJV 17 Then He taught, saying to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it a 'den of thieves.'"
In this teaching, Yeshua is quoting from two of the prophets.  The first is found in Isaiah 56:7 which we just read, the other is found in Jeremiah 7:11
Jeremiah 7:11 NKJV 11 "Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it," says the LORD.
Jeremiah was warning the priesthood of his day that their abuses and apostacy would result in severe judgment and ultimately the destruction of the House of God.  By quoting Jeremiah, Yeshua was giving the same warning to Annas, Caiaphas and the corrupt priesthood and leadership of this time as well.  The remainder of Jeremiah’s warning is also recalled here.
Jeremiah 7:12-14 NKJV 12 "But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I set My name at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel. 13 "And now, because you have done all these works," says the LORD, "and I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear, and I called you, but you did not answer, 14 "therefore I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to this place which I gave to you and your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh.
The priesthood of Yeshua’s day had turned the Temple and its courts into their own “den of thieves!” Yeshua’s actions certainly angered the leaders but they feared to act on the account of the people’s support for Yeshua of Nazareth.
Mark 11:18 NKJV 18 And the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His teaching.
Yeshua’s attack on the merchants and moneychangers may not have had a lasting effect.  Later that same day or the next, it would have been business as usual.  But the effect on the chief priests and leaders was profound and lasting.  They certainly had an even greater motivation after this to have Yeshua arrested and killed.  They would have attempted to arrest Yeshua that very day if it were not for the multitudes who adored Him.
Luke 19:47-48 NKJV 47 And He was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him, 48 and were unable to do anything; for all the people were very attentive to hear Him.
It appears that Yeshua’s actions in the Temple along with His teaching took a major part of the day because it became evening and He left the city once again.
        Mark 11:19 NKJV 19 When evening had come, He went out of the city.
The next morning, Yeshua once again entered Jerusalem, this time for the last time!  As they were on the short journey, they again passed the fig tree which Yeshua had sought fruit to eat, the disciples noticed that it had withered.
Mark 11:20-21 NKJV 20 Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. 21 And Peter, remembering, said to Him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away."
In just one day the fig tree had withered! The fig tree is often used as a metaphor to represent the nation of Israel. Each year, as the trees bear fruit, it is like a generation has come and gone. The generation of this fig tree had born no fruit.  But there is a promise for another generation.  Yeshua taught His disciples using another parable concerning a fig tree found in Mark chapter 13 verses 28 through 31.
Mark 13:28-31 NKJV 28 "Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 "So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near--at the doors! 30 "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. 31 "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.
This generation of Israel had rejected Yeshua’s message of repentance and the coming of the kingdom of God.  They had turned away from the hour of their visitation.  But we can hold onto this promise and when we see the tender leaves of the fig tree, look up to the mountain of the LORD because our hour of visitation has come once again!
Study Questions:
1. In this teaching, we demonstrated that Yeshua considered the entire Temple Mount to be the sanctified House of God.  The merchants and moneychangers set up shop inside the Court of the Gentiles. Compare this situation with the prophecy in Zechariah 14:16-21 where he said there would be no Canaanite in the House of God.  Isaiah 56:7 says that the House of God is for “all nations,” Jew and Gentile.  How are these two prophecies not in conflict with each other?

2. Using the fig tree, Yeshua illustrates for his followers that judgement is coming to that generation because of their lack of repentance.  However, many individuals believed in Yeshua as Messiah but also, to some degree suffered the effects of the coming judgment. What are some other examples in the Bible where judgement was executed on Israel as a whole, while individuals were saved?  How were their lives affected by the national judgment?

3. In the prophecy spoken by Yeshua in Mark 13:28-31, verse 30 is often singled out and quoted by prophecy teachers as referring to our own generation today. For instance, the generation born from the time of the founding of the modern nation of Israel (1948) or the retaking of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount (1967). In the broader context of the passage, and in the scope of Yeshua’s other parables and teachings as well as considering the generational aspect of the sign of the cursing of the fig tree, is this common interpretation valid?  What would be an alternate interpretation and perhaps a more likely future fulfillment of this prophecy?

4. In removing the merchants and moneychangers, Yeshua was directing His righteous judgment, not necessarily against them, but against the corruption of the priesthood.  What are the words of the prophets regarding a corrupt and greedy Levites and priesthood?

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