FRUITLESS (Naked Runner/Lesson18)


Pastor Barry Bruce/ The Gathering Church: Gospel of Mark/ Naked Runner Series #18

Fruit-less        failing to achieve the desired results; unproductive or useless.

Look at the detail of the painting by Tom Dubois entitled Hosanna.  What words come to your mind as you look at the wonder of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem? Look at the jubilant faces, the colorful palm leaves, flowers and instruments. Can’t you just hear the singing, the praise and dancing?  What words come to your mind as you look– How about “Fruitless?”

The festivities that day proved fruitless in all that were present, for in one week’s time that scene would drastically change into one of Jesus carrying his cross before that same then mocking crowd. The people were well masked at that festive parade but the fruit of faith and allegiance was not produced in their hearts. You’ve heard the expression “all show and no go”.  That is exactly what was happening at that parade among the people except for in the heart of one–that sacrificial lamb riding on the beast of burden. Does Jesus produce any fruit in you?

“Hosanna!” Mark 11:1-11, Matthew 21:4-11, Zechariah 9:9, Isaiah 53:6-8

It was all part of the master’s plan.  Jesus arriving in Jerusalem as a king.  Mark, writing to a gentile audience, did a poor job writing about the event. Only a religious Jew could  appreciate the symbolism. So we will leave Mark’s gospel here and go to Matthew’s     account. Matthew tells us why Jesus came to Jerusalem in the way he did.  It was to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah and to remind the Jews of God’s promise to King David. The Jewish Messiah (savior) was to “sit on David’s throne (Psalm 89:32-37, 132:11, Acts 2:29-36).  In other words, the  promised Jewish Messiah would come through the genealogical line of King David just as Jesus did and he will reign forever and ever (Revelation 11:15). 

Jesus rode into Jerusalem (Zion) on a donkey because that animal was once King David’s royal mount.  It proclaimed that the promised eternal king had come to bring salvation to his people. In the ancient Middle Eastern world, leaders rode horses into war, but a donkey if they came in peace. First Kings 1:32-33 records King David’s order to mount his son Solomon on a donkey on the day he was recognized as the new king of Israel. Jesus was honored as king in a parade that day as they all shouted “hosanna!” which meant “save us”, but what the Jews failed to see was that this forever king would first have to die as a sacrifice for sin to bring them salvation.  That too was prophesied (Isaiah 53:6-8). Like fans at a sporting event they cheered, but their hearts were hardened with sin.  They all needed a savior.  John the Baptist had introduced Jesus to the people three years before as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  Now that promised lamb was coming into Jerusalem to offer himself as a sacrifice for mankind. Many other lambs also came through the gates that day to be inspected by the priests for family sacrifices for the upcoming Passover, but only the Lamb of God can forgive sin (John 1:12, 3:16-17).  

A Cursed Tree Mark 11:11-14, Luke 13:6-9, Luke 19:41-44

Mark gives us a timeline for the next events.  After the “parade” Jesus looked around at everything (the fruitlessness) in the temple courts (Mark 11:11) and because it was late he went back to Bethany with his disciples and called it a day.  The following morning Jesus and his disciples headed back to Jerusalem.  They were hungry on the journey and saw a leafy fig tree in the distance. (Note: when a fig tree has leaves it should also have small knobs, called taqsh, an edible forerunner of figs which come later in season.  If the leaves appear unaccompanied by taqsh, there will be no figs that year.)  Jesus seeing no taqsh saw a fruitless tree and cursed it.  This was not merely an angry act of hunger and frustration by Jesus. It was an illustrated curse on Israel of which the fig tree is a symbol throughout the Bible.

In Luke 13:6-9 Jesus told a parable of a fig tree.  The parable was preceded by his words to those “living in Jerusalem”: “But unless you repent, you too will all perish”. The owner of the vineyard is the God of Israel (Isaiah 5:7). The caretaker is the Messiah, who, three years into his mission of “digging and fertilizing”, sought to bring the nation to bear fruit for God. At the time of the utterance of this parable, the mission of Christ was not complete. Our Lord still had half a year of ministry before him. The cursing of the fig tree recorded in Mark 11:12-14 and Matthew 21:18-20 is the finishing of this unfinished parable. Israel proved fruitless and therefore was cursed.  This judgment also coincides with Jesus’ prophecy about Israel as he overlooked Jerusalem on the way to his triumphal entry (Luke 19:41-44). His prophecy was fulfilled in 70AD when Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple.

A Cleansed Temple Mark 11:15-19, Galatians 5:19-23

As Jesus entered the Temple courts he saw the selfish businessmen.  They had turned a place where people were supposed to pray into a noisy marketplace. Any such business should have been set up outside of the Temple area.  No one was able to focus their attention on God so Jesus got their attention!  This was the second time that Jesus cleared out the Temple in this way (John 2:13-17). You might say that Jesus fertilized the Temple courts by clearing out the weeds and making such a stink there!  After he cleared out the Temple the gospel of Matthew says the blind and lame were healed and children praised his name (Matthew 21:14-16).  Meanwhile, the chief priests and teachers of the law looked for a way to kill him.  Prayer (Communion) with God, brings the fruit of the Spirit into our lives (Galatians 5:22-23).  Are you a house of prayer or den of thieves? (Galatians 5:19-21).  Dear God, let us be a house a fruitful people and a house of prayer for you.

The Fruit of a Disciple Mark 11:20-26, 2 Corinthians 5:17

The next morning the disciples marveled over the withered fig tree that Jesus had cursed the day before.  The dead tree symbolized God’s curse on Israel’s fruitlessness, but Jesus offered hope. Jesus cleansed the temple as he can cleanse the soul. He can make all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Jesus instructed his disciples to bear fruit.  Have faith in God, believe, pray and forgive.  This is the fruit of a disciple and it can only come through Jesus Christ.

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