Monday On the Mount in the Temple
( Originally Published 1915 )
AFTER THE royal coming of Jesus to the city and the Temple, on the next morning—which was Monday—Jesus left Bethany very early, without waiting for his breakfast, and with his twelve disciples walked over the Mount of Olives toward Jerusalem. The walk and the early morning air made him hungry, and seeing a fig tree covered with green leaves in a field near the road, he went to it, hoping to find some figs upon it.
The laws of the Jews allowed any person passing by a field which was not his own, to take as much fruit or grain as he wished to eat, but not to carry any away; so that Jesus had a right to go to this tree and help himself to its fruit. Jesus knew that it was not quite the time for ripe figs, for they do not become ripe in that country before May or June, and that day may have been in March. But on the sunny slope of the Mount of Olives figs often ripen early in the season and as the figs always come before the leaves, wherever the leaves were abundant, there might be among them some ripe figs.
But when Jesus came to the fig tree, and looked at it closely, he found that upon it was no fruit, either ripe or green, but only leaves. Then a thought came to Jesus, and in the presence of his disciples he spoke to the fig tree.
"From this time let no fruit ever be picked from this tree forever!" he said.
This was not because Jesus was angry with the poor tree, which could not help not having fruit. It was because he saw in that tree a parable or picture of the Jewish people. They made a show of serving God, and were like trees covered with leaves; but they did not bring forth the fruit of good lives, of love to God and their fellow-men. They were fruit-less trees, an d trees which have been planted and kept for fruit are of no use without fruit.
The twelve disciples who were with Jesus around the fig tree heard those words, and soon had cause to remember them.
From the Mount of Olives they walked, as on the day before, across the the valley of the brook Kedron, and again came into the Temple. You remember that two years before when Jesus visited the Temple, he then drove out from its court all the people that he found buying and selling and changing money. But in the two years that had passed, they had all come back, and the Court of the Gentiles was again a place of business and of confusion. All around were oxen lowing and sheep bleating; their owners calling upon the people passing by to come and buy them; cages full of pigeons and doves were standing on every side; and from a row of tables might be heard the chink of silver, as the money of foreign lands was changed for that of Judea.
When these traders saw Jesus standing before them, some of them could remember how two years before he had driven them out of the Temple, and all saw in him the man whom only yesterday the people had welcomed as the coming King of Israel. There was a look upon the face of Jesus which made all these wrongdoers afraid of him; and when he spoke in the hearing of them all,
God's book says, `My house shall be called a house of prayer; but you are making it a den of robbers,' " with one accord they rushed out of the court before him, driving out the sheep and oxen, carrying away` the cages of doves, and even upsetting the tables of the money-changers.
Jesus saw that people who were coming from out-side the wall were carrying goods and jars of water and of oil through the Court of the Gentiles as the nearest way to the city, so that the court was becoming merely a street between the city and the country. He put a stop to this carrying of loads through the Temple courts; and would not allow even a jar of water to be taken by way of the Temple into the city. This building in all its parts was the house of God, and Jesus as the Son of God gave commands that everywhere it was to be used only for the worship of his heavenly Father.
After casting out all these evil things from the outer court, Jesus walked up the steps to the inner court, called the Treasury. There he sat down, and for the rest of the day taught the people who crowded around him.
While he was in the Treasury, they led to him the blind, and he gave them sight by a word; and the lame came in on crutches, or were carried in by their friends to his feet, and he gave them power to walk. Boys too were marching around the Temple and shouting everywhere, "May God save the Son of David!"
All these things made the priests and the rulers very angry; for they were only waiting for a chance to find Jesus alone and make him their prisoner, and they could do nothing while such crowds were around him, all believing that he was the promised Son of David and King of Israel. But these enemies of Jesus could not keep quiet amid all these praises.
"Do you hear," they said to Jesus, "what these boys are shouting? Why do you not tell them to be still?"
"Yes, I hear them," answered Jesus, "and have you never read what is said in the book of Psalms, `Out of the lips of little children, even of babies in their mothers' arms, thy praises have been made perfect?' "
Jesus stayed in the Temple teaching until the evening drew near. Then he went with his disciples back to Bethany for the night. There among his friends he was safe.