Lent Readings: The Story of Jesus, Day 41

On their way back to Jerusalem the next morning, they saw a fig tree beside the road. Jesus, feeling hungry, went to see if there was any ripe fruit on it. Finding none, He cursed the tree, saying, “You will never bear fruit again!”

Upon their arrival at the temple, Jesus went directly to where money-changers were sitting and upended their tables, scattering coins everywhere. He drove out the people selling doves and various other religious goods. He prevented anyone from conducting business in the temple courts. To those who were observing, He declared, “Doesn’t Scripture say, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations?’ Look, you have turned it into a den of thieves!”

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Among the thousands who made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover were some Greeks. They approached Philip, one of Jesus’ disciples from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked if they might be able to meet Jesus. Philip found Andrew, and together they went to Jesus.

Jesus indicated that the time for meeting and ministering to the crowds had passed; it was now time to focus on one thing, His impending suffering. He said, “It is time for Me to complete My purpose. You know that a grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die or it remains forever a single grain. Only when it dies can it produce much grain. So it is that whoever loves and tries to hang onto his life ends up losing everything, but whoever dies to himself gains life that goes on forever as God designed it. If someone really wants to serve Me, they have to stay at My side all the way; and they can be confident that My Father will reward them.

Jesus seemed to live in two worlds simultaneously. Often, in the midst of talking with the people around Him, He would speak directly to His Father as though He were part of the same audience. This was one of those occasions. “My soul is in turmoil right now and I want to cut and run.  But how can I ask My Father to change our plans?  This is the main reason I came. Father, carry on with the plan and reveal how awesome and wonderful You are!”

Right then a voice came from the heavens, saying, “I have been demonstrating that and will continue doing so!” Only Jesus discerned the words.  The crowd looked around in awe, thinking it had thundered. Some said, “An angel has spoken to Him.”

Jesus explained, “This voice wasn’t for My sake but for yours. Time is up for this world and for the one who has been running it into the ground. As I am ‘lifted up from the earth,’ people everywhere will turn toward Me.”

Since the phrase ‘lifted up from the earth’ was commonly used to describe death by crucifixion, this really confused the hearers. They said, “The Old Testament said our Messiah would reign forever. If you are the Promised One, how can you talk of dying like this?”

Jesus didn’t answer their question directly but exhorted them, saying, “You have seen the light and have begun walking in it. Soon that light will be gone; but if you continue walking in the light you have seen and entrust yourself to it, you will become children of light who do not stumble around in darkness. Those who walk in darkness don’t know where they are going.”

After saying this, Jesus left the temple area and hid himself from the crowds.

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For several years the people had heard His words and had seen the miracles, but they still wouldn’t entrust themselves to Him. Isaiah had foreseen this hundreds of years before when he wrote, “Lord, who has believed our report? Does anyone recognize God stretching out His mighty arm to save?” Isaiah was given a vision of all these events and described it in God’s words: “Their eyes have been blinded and their hearts hardened so they cannot see and will not believe. They cannot turn to Me and let Me heal them.”

There were, however, a handful of Jewish leaders who did privately embrace Jesus’ teaching; but more concerned about getting man’s approval than God’s, they didn’t admit publicly to believing. They feared the disgrace of being put out of the synagogue.

Later that day, Jesus spoke out again to the people, saying, “Everyone who believes in Me is actually believing in the One who sent Me, and whoever sees Me is seeing the One who sent Me. I came into the world as light so that no one who believes in Me has to stay in the dark. Anyone who has heard My words and rejects them will be judged, not by Me, but by the truths they have heard from My mouth. That’s because I always, only spoke what My Father wanted Me to say. His words produce eternal life in all who accept them.”

While Jesus was teaching, the crowds were listening in astonishment. However, the scribes, chief priests, and leaders were discussing just how to get rid of Him; but their hands were tied because of the people and because they were afraid of Jesus.

That evening, Jesus once again left the city.