<< Mark XI: Last Days of Teaching in the Temple >>
IT was Sunday when the Lord rode over the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem, and the people waved the palms and cried, Hosana! That night He went out again with the disciples to Bethany.
Monday they came again over the hill. There was a leafy fig tree by the path. It was still early for figs, but if there were leaves there might also be fruit, but there was none. The Lord rebuked the barren tree. The next morning as they passed the same way again, the disciples saw that the tree was withered. The Lord had made it teach a lesson to us all. If we know what is right and do not do it, we are like trees with leaves and no fruit. All our knowledge and the appearance of goodness will some day wither away.
We must read about the fig tree, and also what the Lord did in the temple on that same day. It is so much like a story that we have read before, that you will understand it.
And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.
And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.
And when even was come, he went out of the city.
And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.—Mark XI. 12-21.
And now we must follow the Lord from Bethany on the Tuesday morning. It was the last day of His public teaching in the temple. He spoke in parables, and afterwards He answered questions when the Pharisees and others asked Him, not because they wanted to learn, but trying to catch the Lord in His teaching and to find some ground of complaint against Him.
Let us read one of the parables : it is about a vineyard. We know how the vines were planted and trained; and we know about the hedge and the wine-press and the tower. The fruit that the Lord looks for from His vineyard is the fruit of good, heavenly works.
And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country. And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard. And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some. Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son. But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be our’s. And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.—Mark XII 1-9.
It is added, that they knew that He had spoken the parable against them; and they left Him and went their way. Another parable was about a marriage feast that a king made for his son. It means all the blessings of a good life, and of heaven that the Lord prepares for us. But those who were bidden made excuses and would not come. Can it be that we ever do so? The man who had not on a wedding garment is like those who appear to do right, but there is no heavenly spirit in it, and when they come into the other world even the appearance of goodness is lost. They cannot live in heaven.
And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.—Matthew XXII. 1-14.
Author: William L. Worcester 1904
A fig tree without fruit >> The Jewish Church, which had the Scriptures and abundant knowledge of what was good, but did not do the good works of charity
Temple >> the Lord’s own Humanity
Cleansing the temple >> Cleansing humanity of hypocrisy, evil and falsity
A certain man planted a vineyard >> The Lord gives us the ability and opportunity to learn heavenly truth and to live from it
Set an hedge about it >> The Lord hedges about the tender spiritual intelligence with knowledge of what is outwardly right and proper
Tower >> The ability to rise into inner thought and look down upon ourselves, to correct our life where there is danger of going wrong
Wine-press >> The ability to enter deeply into life and to enjoy an inner blessing even through experiences of trial and temptation
And went into a far country >> The Lord does not make us always conscious of His presence, but leaves us free to use His gifts well or to neglect them
Sending three times for the fruit >> The Lord’s desire at each stage of our development for the good life appropriate to that stage; His effort at all times and in every possible way, through angels and prophets, through His Word and every heavenly influence, to lead us to bear the fruits of goodness
Killing the servant >> The total rejection of the Lord’s appeals
Stoning the servant >> Intellectual rejection (stones >> Facts, false thoughts contrary to the Lord’s Word)
Beating the servant >> Opposition of the will to the Lord’s goodness
Conspiracy of the husbandmen >> The hatred of the Jews against the Lord >> The banding together of evil spirits of hell to do their utmost to overcome Him
He will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others >> The dissolution of the Jewish Church and the establishment of the Christian Church
Marriage feast >> Heaven Union with the Lord, union of Love and Wisdom
The preparing of the feast by the king >> The Lord’s Divine care to prepare for us the blessings of heavenly life
“All things are now ready.” >> The Lord does His part, all that He can do is wait for us to do our part to receive His blessings
Oxen >> External affections of the heavenly life
Fatlings >> Interior affections
The farm and the merchandise >> Conceit in knowledge and intellectual power, which led the Jews and which lead us to despise the heavenly life which the Lord offers
The king’s anger when the guests would not come >> The intensity of the Lord’s desire that we shall receive His gifts
The punishment of those who were bidden and would not come >> The inevitable destruction by the fire of their own evil, of those who have opportunity but willfully reject the Lord and heaven
The people brought in from the highways >> Those who can be led to a life that is outwardly good; but among them there are both bad and good
The king’s coming in to see the guests >> The Lord’s looking into our hearts, seeing the real character of our life; the revealing of our inner character when we die.
Without a wedding garment >> The spirit of heaven is not there, all appearance of heavenly life and heavenly wisdom is lost
Binding hand and foot >> A hypocrite can no longer do works that seem good, and even his evil acts must be restrained
Casting into outer darkness >> The power to see truth is gone
Wailing >> Unhappiness of evil affection
Gnashing of teeth >> The conflict of false thought
Pictures: James Tissot —-Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum