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Holy Week 1: Matthew 21:18-27

The cursing of the fig tree is one of those passages of scripture that has often given me pause for thought.  Why would Jesus act in such a way. It feels almost like he is cross at the tree and like a wizard with a headache takes his anger out on it.  Not the way we expect the Saviour of the world to act.  It seems an odd, out-of-character perhaps even bizarre episode..

Then I hear the voice of Craig, a lecturer at my Theological College echoing down the years to me:

Remember the sandwiching, remember the sandwiching

No, Craig hasn’t lost the plot, he’s not thinking about Lunch.  He means look at the context of the verses what other pieces of scripture is this verse sandwiched between – what is the context?

In this case, as we saw yesterday the preceding verse is Jesus entry into Jerusalem and the turning of the tables in the Temple. The following verse is the one I read today, the Chief Priests accosting Jesus and demanding to know on whose authority is he acting, who is he to turn the sellers out of the temple courts.  Jesus asks them to answer his question about John’s baptism but when they can’t he refuses to enlighten them about the authority he carries.

It seems to me there is an implication here. The priests are only concerned about how Jesus’ action make them look and the disruption it brings.  They are looking in at Jesus’ ministry from the outside – they are not followers.  If they were they’d have witnessed the incident with the fig tree that very morning and good deal more too, they’d have witnessed Lazarus being raised from the dead, the healings and the teachings. they’d have seen heard and experience God working in and through his Son. They would know in whose authority he did these things.

The priests are  like the people who complain that God is persecuting them because of the hard times they are suffering asking “What have I done” when they do not follow God at any other time.  They can’t have it both ways.  And Jesus calls them on it, he asks them a question that forces them to acknowledge amongst themselves that they are more scared of the people than they are of God.
Whose gave Jesus this authority? Follow and you will see.

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