THE CLEANSING AND THE CURSE
Matthew 21:12 ¶ And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, 13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. 14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them. 15 And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased, 16 And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? 17 And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.
Matthew 21:18 ¶ Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. 19 And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. 20 And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away! 21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. 22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.
These events occur at the time of our Lord’s last coming to Jerusalem. And this temple cleansing has occurred once before, at the beginning of his ministry. We first find it listed in John chapter two. This is the same chapter that records the beginning of his miracles in the wedding of Cana of Galilee.
John 2:13 And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, 14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: 15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; 16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. 17 And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.
Unless we are just historians, interested in the accurate accumulation of the facts concerning the events of the past, we must seek this word to be spirit and life. John 6:63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
Therefore, just what is the significance of this temple cleansing? First let us ascertain just what the Holy Spirit reveals concerning God’s temple. 1 Corinthians 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
Ephesians 2:19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. The temple of God, wherein he abides is a living, spiritual organism. It is the individual and the collective believers in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior!
With these passages and with the Holy Spirit’s guidance we can now see the cleansing of ourselves, as believers, in the work of the Spirit’s sanctification. Therefore, knowing that the Spirit’s work is to sanctify and cleanse it (the soul), with the washing of water by the word, (Eph. 5:26), let us take note of the words of instruction from our Lord in these two cleansing.
In the first cleansing of the believer, as His temple, the Lord does begin with a negative word of instruction. For as the newly born believer sets forth he learns that old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Cor. 5:17). Therefore he is concerned with the negative matters of previous immoralities. The Apostle John takes special interest in these believers at this time of their new experiences. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. (1 John 2:13,14).
And the Apostle Paul takes time to instruct younger Timothy to Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Tim. 2:22). Therefore we see that this first cleansing of the physical temple is a pattern, even a picture, of the inner workings of the Lord in the beginnings of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in each and every believer’s heart! For just as surely as they are established on the foundation of Jesus Christ, they are also to be cleansed from inner corruption! 2 Timothy 2:19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
We also clearly understand that this even literally occurred in the literal Jewish temple in Jerusalem, and was therefore a teaching, and a warning to those who sought to worship the God of Abraham there.
Then there was the last cleansing, as listed in our above listed passage in Matthew 21. And what are the cleansing words of instruction there? First we see that the negative implication, provided by that word, “not” is absent. But what we do have is this instruction at the end of his ministry that our temples should, by now, be concerned with spiritual and holy communion with Him! For he clearly sets it forth that our sanctifying maturity has brought us to the character of those who pray without ceasing! (1 Thess. 5:17). Our vessels, which are the Lord’s temple, are to be developed to the point of being a house of prayer.
And just how does one pray without ceasing? Well, how does one love the Lord with all his mind? (Matt. 22:37). Is not one of the characteristics of love to think no evil? (1 Corinthians 13:5). Then to pray without ceasing certainly must emit from a purer mind – one more sanctified now than heretofore. And it most surely entails the arresting of the imagination, in cooperating with the work of the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
So we see, as we examine both of these temple cleansing’s, that we have a look at the continued work of the Holy Spirit in the inner realm of each and every believer. He is brought, after his spiritual birth from “doing” to the more mature character of his “being.” And this, in order to be made to be with the Lord eternally. For God did not give Moses a description of Himself by saying, “I AM THAT I AM DOING!” But he said, “I AM THAT I AM.” That is, “I Am that which I Am being!”
We come now to “The Curse.” And as soon as this fig tree is mentioned, seasoned religionists close their minds, as they think themselves to endure another lecture on the downfall of the nation of Israel. But again, where is the edificational ability in that? Let us see if there are not spiritual and edifying life properties in this.
First we must know that there was no impatience, or sinful wrath in the Lord Jesus! For he is “holy, harmless and undefiled, separate from sinners!” (Hebrews 7:26). And it was his teaching from the very same mouth that would have tasted the figs that said, Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6). And it is his word, by the Holy Spirit which instructs, Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31).
And just how is the believer to understand and comply with that mysterious instruction of his Lord, which caused so many to walk away from him, never to be his disciples again? John 6:54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. Unless the believer understands what the Lord meant when the disciples returned with food at the time of his dealings with the woman at the well, he cannot comprehend that meaning of eating his flesh, and drinking his blood! Listen to what he said at that well. Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. (John 4:34). He was nourished by his obedience to the Father’s will! He could have only eaten for the glory of God by hungering after righteousness, not just by the consumption of figs!
Dear Readers, it is not just those recorded in the scriptures who have gone forty days and nights without food, who have been sustained by the being of God! What about Abel, who has been in the presence of God for thousands of years? And what about the billions in eternity, in both heaven and hell? There are no grocery stores there! Jesus Christ is the life of all creatures! His personal energy and spirit animates all existence! Acts 17:28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; John 5:26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;
At just the sound of his voice, all the dead, both good and evil, shall come forth from the graves! John 5:28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
For as the Lord God has fitted the s-u-n in the midst of the universe, to beam its life-giving rays to that which revolves around it, so the Father has given us his S-o-n to be the center of life to all in existence!
But what of that phrase, but leaves only? (Matt. 21:19). Their appearance gave false expectation for hungry souls. And so it is with Harlot religion of our day! Leaves represent the social aspect of the gospel! Revelation 22:2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Leaves speak of a horizontal outreach from man to other men.
The Lord Jesus asked the blind man, Bartimeaus, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? We consider that as somewhat of a foolish question. But the Lord was asking him just how he viewed him. The man was a beggar! His daily task by the road side was begging! So the Lord was asking him just how he ‘saw’ the Lord Jesus. Did he just see him as a social worker, like most of the religion of our day, and only want the Lord Jesus to put a donation into his tin cup? Or did he want more that a leafy, social work?
The blind beggar wanted more that a horizontal, man-to-man social donation. He wanted a vertical, supernatural work that came down as a gift from God! James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. For fruit has to do with God’s glory! John 15:8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
For there is no God-glorifying fruit except by the Holy Spirit! Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
And what of your involvement with religion? Are you just leaves? Or are you involved in the Spirit’s fruit to the glory of God? Rev. 18:4 Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
Pastor Gene Breed, December 3, 2014