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Monday Thoughts

Good morning my jello beans -

How are you? It is the first day of Holy/Passion Week, and I was wondering: what does that mean to you?

Growing up, I never knew about it, so it meant nothing to me. Almost. The week before Easter was usually when Spring Break was, so for me, it was a time of rest and not having to wake up at 7AM for school.

In college, I was told that Passion Week was a week of spiritual turmoil and warfare. I wasn't really quite sure what it meant, but it made me hyper aware of when things went wrong or awry. It was almost like a superstition, if anything.

As I studied the Word and grew in my faith, it clicked that Holy/Passion Week is the week between Palm Sunday and Easter. Of course, there's Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Day, but what about Monday - Thursday?

On Monday, Jesus curses a fruitless fig tree to never bear fruit again, and He droves out everyone from the temple who was selling and buying goods - calling it now a den of robbers, rather than a place of worship. *Depending on if you read Matthew or Mark, the two events are switched, but it is usually more widely accepted that Jesus cursed the fig tree, then cleared the temple, rather than clearing the temple the night of Palm Sunday and returning the day after.

In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. -Matthew 21:18-19

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” -Matthew 21:12-13

I find it interesting that the first thing that Jesus does is to take out the fig tree - in the text, it seems like it was because He was hungry and frustrated that the tree was useless and couldn't give him sustenance. This behavior almost reminds me of when a toddler gets a cup of water instead of the apple juice they had cried for, and ends up throwing the cup away - an action that is egocentric, rage-filled, and shows a lack of self-control, which can be seen as cute only in a young child. However, this is definitely not biblical behavior, and it definitely isn't a good way of defining who Jesus is, so why?

Not only that, but rage seems to overtake Jesus again when He is at the temple, which is indicated by him overturning tables and seats. Honestly, I don't expect to see that kind of behavior outside of mafia movies and extremely dramatized K-Dramas. However, this happened, and of all people, it was Jesus who was so enraged.

Has Jesus been overtaken by anger? But how can He be if He is sinless, and blameless? How can that be if He is God, and is sovereign over all things? Isn't it sinful that He was so angered? Isn't it sinful that He took out his hangriness on the fig tree? Isn't it sinful that He scared people?

I think that this is where context matters.

The fig tree itself isn't what angered Jesus. Though possibly hangry, He probably understood that the fig fruit was just not in season. However, fig fruits are historically a symbol of Israel where faith and labor together bear fruit. In Jeremiah 24, there is a comparison of how good fruit will be planted and not uprooted. On the other hand, bad figs will be uprooted and will whither - as represented by the fruitless fig tree. This is a parallel to what Jesus does in uprooting the "bad fig trees" within the temple:

He overturns tables and cleanses the temple of people who were buying and selling goods at the temple - the bad fig fruits whom He will uproot. This cleared the temple and created space for the Good fruit to grow, while the Bad fruit would whither away. He set the intentions very clearly - that the temple is not meant to be a house of dens, but a house of prayer. This was right before the Passover; even today, many of the Jewish faith go to Jerusalem to worship, and from a business stand point, this would be the perfect time to sell items related to ritual and ceremony at a higher price, with the guise of providing goods as a "good" Jewish person of faith. This would explain the verbiage "den of robbers" that Jesus uses to describe the merchants - He saw their hearts to gain. They were not providing goods and asking for a fair price. Furthermore, this made it hard for people to pray - the way the temple was set up was already very exclusive, with people of only certain statuses being able to enter the temple, whilst most people could only worship outside of even the temple walls. This made worshiping the Lord for an exclusive amount of people, and even then, they would be distracted by sellers, buyers, and even the money involved with faith. The faith was no longer for the people, but rather for the exclusive few who could run the temple as a swap meet.

Jesus was always the one who broke the "norm" and "status quo" of exclusivity when it came to receiving His grace, mercy, healing, prayer, etc. He always rebuked those who believed they were above others and should receive special invitation to the Jewish faith. Instead, He extended a hand to those who were outcast and deemed unworthy by society. He didn't curse the fig tree because the fig tree was unable to bear fruit during the off-season - He cursed the fig tree as a symbol of the Jewish leaders who believed they were worthy by name, rather than their fruitfulness in faith. And likewise, He didn't cast out merchants and buyers for what they were selling to allow others to worship God, He cast them out because their hearts hearts were turned to money, works, ritual, and status, rather than worshiping the Lord and giving thanks during the Passover. They did not sell and purchase to make worship and God accessible, but rather, more exclusive than ever.

So as a Christian, what does it mean for us to be fruitful? What does it mean for us to make worship and God accessible? I think often times, Christianity can be seen as an "exclusive club". True, you can only be a Christian if you believe in Christ - and for some denominations, there is a select group that God has chosen for salvation, as not everyone turns to Christ even in their last moments. Does that mean we don't have to try and share the Gospel? There is God's sovereignty, but also Free Will on our end - and God listens to our petition and prayer. God's Will can be bent through interventional prayer, which we see in Moses praying for mercy upon the people.

There's constantly conversation around - if God wanted to, He could've, would've, should've. And it's true - through God, all things are possible. But He doesn't, because He granted us Free Will to choose our paths - but what does that mean if He is sovereign over all things to begin with? I think as a Christian, these are things that are constantly in tug-o-war in terms of our faith. To what extent do we have the opportunity to change something? I personally am a strong believer of "be the change you want to see", and I don't do well standing in the sidelines waiting for someone else to step in. That doesn't mean I'm fit, nor meant, to be the leader of something, simply that I have the power to pray for what I want, and ask if it aligns with His Will.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be able to share my faith with those around me. With my friends and family who aren't Christian, I believe sharing my testimony through my daily life is important, and to be vigilant about and pray for the opportunity to share the Gospel message is something that I am relatively consistent in (but can always do better, of course!). But what about fellow Christians? We are also called to constantly preach the Gospel to one another and to ourselves, and I have been feeling burdened to love more on my Christian community, I realize that I don't always know how to be the most loving and encouraging. Is it to just go to small group and share honestly? How do we build vulnerability, trust, and family? How can I make sure that Christianity doesn't become an exclusive relationship between myself and God, but also a relationship where I'm inviting non-believers, and other Christians into?

These are just random musings and thoughts on a Monday morning - please feel free to pick me apart, share, or respond as you'd like :)

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