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July 24, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!’ ‘Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered. ‘Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.’”—Mark 11:20–23 (NIV)
As we noted a couple of days ago, the story of Jesus cursing the fig tree wasn’t about Jesus getting upset over a lack of physical food. It’s a symbol for the false appearances that the hypocrites in Jerusalem were putting on—looking good on the outside, but no substance or fruit on the inside.
Now, Jesus and His disciples are headed out of the city of Jerusalem where He just cleared the temple of moneychangers. Peter points out the fig tree that Jesus had cursed and seems surprised that it’s withered already. Jesus’ response doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense at first read. What does moving mountains have to do with dead fig trees?
I love the way Christian blogger and preacher David McLemore puts it: “We have a hunger for true worship, and if we go to a dead temple looking for spiritual fruit, we’re going to be disappointed and left hungry. We need another way—another tree from which to eat.”
He goes on to say that “this mountain” is referring specifically to the mountain of dead worship they had just seen in the temple, and that Jesus had to make another way for true worship to happen. In other words, Jesus was pointing to the fact that He would replace the temple as the ultimate object of faith in God, knowing the physical temple in Jerusalem would later be destroyed (Luke 21:5–38).
More importantly, McLemore points out that the temple was never God’s final solution for communion with Him because it didn’t provide direct access to everyone. Only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies once each year—but Jesus had a better plan. When He died on the cross, the curtain separating God’s presence from His people was torn from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51) so that anyone could now enter in. Jesus ushered in the New Covenant, a better way for us to worship Him in the spirit and in truth that isn’t dependent upon our location (John 4:19–24).
“Jesus becomes the very center of our life and worship,” McLemore writes. “He is the meeting place. He is the worship center. He is the sacrifice to grant forgiveness. He is where sinful men and women meet with the Holy God. Jesus was there in Jerusalem for that very purpose. And he doesn’t need a fancy temple. All he needs is a cross.”
Pause: How hungry are you for true worship, and where have you been looking for it?
Practice: Carve out some time this week to put on some worship music at home and give God your heartfelt praise or perhaps go for a walk and wonder at His marvelous creation, thanking Him for the ability to worship anytime, anywhere.
Pray: Father, thank You for sending Jesus to earth to make direct access to You possible so we can meet with You anytime we need to, just as we are. Jesus, today I place You in the center of my life and the object of my true worship, which You alone deserve. Amen.
Rob Nieminen is a seasoned writer and editor who has written devotionals for Calvary since 2015. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, FL. He serves in the Worship Ministry at Calvary Boynton Beach and is an avid reader, an erratic golfer, and an aspiring photographer who loves to cook and spend time with his family.