It is the Monday of Holy Week. Yesterday in church the palm branches were waving and shouts of “Hosanna!” were heard. We cry out “Save Us!” as Christ enters Jerusalem, we recognize the Savior has come and we lay down our garments before Him.

And Monday comes. With the celebration of praise and adoration comes the judgment of God. Christ is fully God and fully man, and with that entry into holy week He brings with Him the judgment of our fruitless, thieving hearts. Mark leaves us only eight verses of Monday and yet it’s a direct reflection of who we are and why we needed Christ’s entry on Sunday.

The fig tree not bearing out fruit isn’t Christ having a case of the Mondays and losing His temper. Remember He is GOD. No the fig tree should have had evidence of it’s future fruit bearing at that point in the season. But there was nothing. Christ wasn’t hangry, He was exacting judgment and pronouncing that judgment had come to all. That speaks directly to me and it should to us all as believers. Are we bearing fruit as expected by the Vine? Are we connected to the Source of our lives? We will show budding of that expectant fruit if we are, and we can expect the convicting power of Christ if we are not producing fruit.

Then we have the table-flipping Jesus,  the Jesus who I seem to like alot. But He’s also bringing judgment, to our thieving hearts. To those that sit in the temple and seek to segregate, separate and profit from their own ideas and opinions. Thieving hearts that serve themselves rather than the gospel of Christ. Worshiping idols of greed, pride, ego and self-service.

So Monday is here. The Monday that follows praise and adoration, triumphal celebration of Sunday and brings the urgent message of judgment. Judgment come in flesh for repentance…for confession…for turning. We see the full righteous anger of Christ on Monday of Holy Week, and how it directly speaks to us and the state of our hearts.

Leptas, Perfume, and a Bag of Silver

Can I just share with y’all that this digging into Holy Week has really been such a divine interruption in my normal writing and study? That it has brought some deeper understandings of Scripture and this week for me than I had before?

download (1)Between yesterday and today we see the objects of money, offering and sacrifice come up in some pretty profound ways in the life of Christ and His followers. From the prior day’s teachings, Christ is in the temple when a “poor widow” came and put in leptas that she had to live on-a couple of pennies in today’s terms. She gave out of her poverty, while others were coming in giving out of their riches, casting in large amounts. Christ was pointing here not to the amount but the heart behind it, the giving out of sacrifice and in devotion to God. It was about the offering in the heart, not the offering in the hand.

The following day, as they stay in Bethany, a woman came as they were reclining at the table, probably following a feast. Do you ever linger at the table with friends? Leaning back from full bellies, but wanting to lean in to fill your heart? I have a feeling that’s what was going on here, gathering at the table for long discussions and listening to the heart of Christ, although we don’t know what was talked of, we do see this woman come to them. She brings in a jar of expensive perfume…this is important because it’s not oil to anoint Him with. It is that pricey bottle of Chanel No. 5, fragrant and hard to come by, expensive to everyone, and used for burial preparations specifically. She poured out this entire gift on Christ, right there before everyone. It was uninhibited devotion to Him, it was her offering of all she had to Him. While others complained of the excess, Christ saw it as her recognition of Who He was, loving Him truly with all that she had.

I love how Christ schools those around the table on this act, as the fragrance fills the room, it coating Him from the head down. In the NIV translation He states, “She did what she could.” He acknowledged her faith and her understanding, receiving her full sacrifice that cost much because she knew, her sacrifice going beyond herself and what others thought of her. She only cared about what she could do for Christ, giving all that she had for Him in His very presence.

Whoa.

How often do I take for granted that He is with me? That I am right there in His Presence? That instead of sacrificing all that I have, all that I am, I choose the way of Judas.

Yep, the verses right after the perfume are of Judas Iscariot choosing to betray Christ to the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees seeking to kill Him, for the price of a slave…thirty pieces of silver. We don’t know his reasoning for it, but we see the contrast of the costly devotion in one moment and the small price of betrayal in the next. Judas choosing his own wants over the Presence of Christ. Bob Goff put it perfectly, “For a couple silver coins, Judas traded who he was, for what he thought he wanted.” The lure of power? Authority maybe? To be in the in crowd with the Pharisees? Maybe he worried what others thought of him, his association with Christ?

I don’t know the root of it, but the betrayal was costly…it would lead to Judas taking his own life not long after Christ’s crucifixion. But we look at these two people, we see their offerings and sacrifice not from a lens of monetary reasoning but from their heart reasons, the faith reasons.

It’s a hard question to face, even in the small decisions daily. Because the big questions have been built upon the smaller sacrifices, the steps further towards Him or away from Him. The choice to sacrifice more of self or more of Him. And so on this Wednesday of Holy Week I am left asking the same question myself.

Do we sacrifice ourselves for Him or do we sacrifice Him in order to get what we want?

 

Getting Taught

My first year of college I was a double major in history and math, with a secondary education emphasis. I wanted to teach. In my high school years I was heavily influenced by math teachers and an English teacher. I fell in love with history thanks to my dad and AP History class. Even at 18 I saw how impactful teachers could be on the life of a bratty teen like myself and felt I owed them more than just an A in class, but to turn and give back myself.

On Tuesday of Holy Week, the Great Teacher went in the temple to teach. Christ, during His time here on earth, often taught through the lens of parables, illustrating an idea through story in order to bring about revelation on the hearts of those who hear. He took the harder lessons to be learned and brought them to the people who most needed to hear them.

But here we sit looking at Mark 11-13, and the hard words of Christ teaching and the Pharisees interrupting, to try to trap Him or ensnare Him. They bring lofty legalistic views, with religion carried on their shoulders rather than trusting in Christ, the God-man Himself right before them, teaching and preaching, pointing to the time of redemption.

They doubt His authority, seeking to be their own authority. I have to say, we all are alike in that vein. We prefer to use ourselves more often to rule than allowing Christ to rule in and through us. As one writer states, “We are not really interested in surrendering that rule to anyone else.” We see further on that they fear others more than they fear God, when they make decisions based upon the crowd’s opinion instead of the words of Christ before them. They chose the safe route, the expedient one rather than what was true, right.

Sounds a bit like me some days, alot of days. Choosing for myself based upon the opinion of others often instead of what Christ commands of me. When I look at this text I cannot help but ask myself, “Does what others will think of me hinder me from moving more towards Jesus?” Do the lessons He teaches me alter me in a way that moves me more towards His likeness or more towards the crowd’s opinion?

In many ways I am just as they were, questioning whether this Teacher has authority and influence in my life, whether I would allow the opinions of others to bare weight over His command. So on this Tuesday as I sit and look at the Teacher and His teachings that day thousands of years ago, I have to seek to know how much of all this is a reason to mask my own fear of what faith might cost me socially, relationally, and culturally. Whether I will be taught or continue to think I am the teacher.

Fig Trees and Flipping Tables Jesus

I have to be honest with y’all….I have never truly understood the cursing of the fig tree by Christ on the Monday of Holy Week. I jump quickly to the story of Christ flipping the tables in the temple-the image I really cannot wait to see in heaven, justice-seeking Christ full of righteous anger. But who doesn’t love that?!

fig-tree

But first that fig tree y’all…As Christ is heading back into Jerusalem from Bethany, where He’s staying with Mary, Martha and Lazarus He is hungry. Yep, we see Jesus get hungry in Scripture, which is His human side coming forth from what I tend to lean towards. He sees a fig tree off there in the distance that is in full leaf, meaning it is showing that it should be bearing fruit, whether small or large. (Fig trees in that part of the world do not fruit until June, this would have been March-April) The tree was giving all intents and purposes that it was something that it, in production, in fruit, was not.

Christ immediately curses the tree, that it may never bear fruit again.

A parable lived right out for the apostles to see and hear.

It was a testament to the state of Israel at that time, and very well the state of our lives too in the church. Israel was showing off one thing, claiming Yahweh as God but yet bore out none of the fruit of that life…instead going after their own gods, making legalism their true aim instead of holiness. They bore no fruit of a life lived in obedience. It is a show with no substance, deceiving what is presented.

“The great majority of persons who have any sort of religion at all bear leaves, but they produce no fruit.”

-Charles Spurgeon, Nothing But Leaves

We believe within our own churches we are one thing, when in fact we are bearing nothing of substance out. Jesus is very well talking to us right here, right now in our churches in America. Egyptian Christians are murdered as they attended Palm Sunday services on Sunday. Yet we sit idly by and allow our comforts to be our concern, whether the a/c is working overtime or not (the very thing I complained about this morning, I kid you not y’all) or whether so-and-so is friendly towards us, or that our service had better numbers than the other church. Instead of our hearts yearning for righteousness, for holiness and complete obedience in all things.

We’ve grown into our own hypocrisy that our Savior cursed this very day….that He pointed to and made clear that deception in bearing fruit was not worthy of life, of His blessing, but rather a curse, a death. We need Him to make us useful and fruitful, to bear it out…just as John 15 points us to, that we abide in Him and we bear much fruit. But we must be in Him, not doing of ourselves or in ourselves. It took being led into John 15 over the last couple of weeks for me to see the real point Christ is making here…if we aren’t in Him, we bear false witness of fruit, we attempt to be the vinedresser, branch and root all in one, only there is nothing of substance to us, to our churches.

The Palms

It is the start of holy week across the nation, as Christians turn their eyes to the week that marks the events leading to the cross and resurrection of Christ. When I think about Christ’s entry into Jerusalem then, I cannot help but envision the palm fronds waving in the air, people shouting “Hosanna!” just as the gospels tell us.

The picture it draws isn’t one of a great victory parade, but of a humble entry on a colt, borrowed from someone. The crowds that had followed Christ in his teachings were now crowded into the busy streets of Passover week, throwing down their blankets for his entry. We often talk about the choice of the cross, His acknowledgement of sacrifice for us, His coming to redeem us from sin and death.

Palm-Sunday-Cross-1024x429But if we take a moment, we see that decision laid out right here, right in the words of instruction to the two disciples to go into the village and find a colt tied to a post. He knew then what this would bring about, the obedience of the will of God becoming the the prevalence of the time He had. Without this entry, there wouldn’t be a crucifixion, a resurrection, Redemption come in the form of God Himself with us, Christ.

We need this week, the entry into the city with palms waving. We needed Him to come as a humble King, unexpectedly with grace and humility, not with pomp and circumstance. We needed Him to come, not for the temporary salvation that Israel was thinking but for the eternal salvation from sin, death.

Palm Sunday ushers in new life for us all, a turning in the story of Christ to the reality of our need for Him. The shouts of “Hosanna!” coming forth from us, shouts of “Save, I pray” calling from our hearts, knowing He comes not just for my momentary circumstances but for me, my heart, my redemption, every bit of it. We wave our own palms today, celebrating the entry of Christ into the city, into our hearts and lives, forever changing the landscape of life, death…ushering in Redemption and access that we would not have without it, without Him.

These palms we see in the gospels at the entry of Christ? They were there in temple as well, on the walls that King Solomon had built, that Christ would enter tomorrow…but they are also there in Revelation, in the hands of  every tribe, nation and language honoring the Lamb of Passover seated on the throne. Those palms are waved today in us, with shouts of Hosanna, Save now! For we celebrate His entry into the city, into our hearts, into salvation and redemption, into life eternal for us.

Fruit-Bearing Mondays

It’s the Monday of Holy Week. As a kid growing up Southern Baptist I didn’t think much on this week, except with anticipation of the Easter drama at church and the basket from the bunny. The week itself didn’t really hold much meaning for me up until a few years ago.

I am currently in a study which is taking a look at each day of this week, with focused intention at the journey of Christ during this week. Monday intrigues me somewhat, especially as I sit here on a Monday night reading over His words from so long ago, that are resonating with this heart preparing for Friday, anticipating Sunday.

Palm Sunday brought adoration, worship, jubilant praise of “Hosanna!” Monday brought judgement in the temple from Christ. It brought a lesson to the disciples. It brought prayer to the forefront once more. For many, even in the study I am in, the focus is on Christ cleansing the temple on this Monday. I have even missed the rest of the day because of the great act of flipping the tables (I have a deep-seeded desire to flip a table in righteous anger too).

The fig tree got the judgement as well on this Monday. As Christ used it as an illustration to those who look full of promise, but bear no fruit. He was specifically pointing towards Israel but He casts a wider audience with us all. The fig tree didn’t bear fruit in the spring, during this Passover season. They are fall fruit-bearers. Yet there are leaves that sprout giving a small hope of promise but not fulfilling that. Christ came hungry, desiring a taste of the fruit one more time as He journeyed towards the weight of the world crashing down upon Him. He sought the faith of those willing to see miracles, to see answered prayers, to bear out the fruit of their lives He was beckoning them to be.

Likewise He desires us to bear fruit, fruit of promise and in all seasons. He seeks for us to know Him, having faith in Him, believing that He walked towards the cross to give us the life He hungers for us to have in Him. The hunger He has for us isn’t one easily satiated with figs, but with real fruit born out in our lives of faith, believing in prayer, seeking miracles through faith in Him, knowing He is our reality.