A Fig Tree – A Hypocrit

Eyewitness: p. 193

In Your Bible: Psalm 8:2; Matthew 21:14-22; Mark 11:12-14,19-26

Admittedly, this story is difficult to comprehend. On his way from Bethany to Jerusalem, Jesus saw a fig tree in leaf. Noteworthy: it was April, not the fruit bearing season of June and August.* It seemed it should have figs due to the leaf bearing–but it didn’t. That’s akin to the religious leaders’ open display of religion with no love for God. A hypocritical tree – hypocritical Jewish leaders!

A Healing and Praise

When Jesus healed a blind and lame man at the Temple. The Chief Priests and teachers of the Law were furious over it. Their anger grew as they heard the children saying, “Hail to the Son of David!” (Eyewitness Matthew 21:15). Even the children praised Jesus.

A Curse For the Fig Tree

Jesus wanted food because he was hungry, but the fig tree in leaf had no figs. Then Jesus taught his disciples a deeper meaning for his action – cursing the tree. Some Bible scholars say the cursing the fig tree was an allegory concerning hypocritical religious leaders and Israel at rejecting the One God sent. Jesus was indeed angry at the fig tree professing to have fruit, having leaves only – hypocrisy.* Jesus’ curse on that tree was from the roots upward!

Application: Again, Jesus openly displayed anger at hypocrisy using the fig tree as an example. It had leaves, appearing to bear fruit but had none. The hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders was part of their lack of faith in Jesus. The lack of faith the Jewish leadership had in Jesus, disappointed Jesus to his inner being. Today, believers must bear fruit according to their faith.

Prayer: Father, what a challenging passage of a curse on the fig tree. Now I get it. I want to bear fruit. Wholehearted dedication and love for You God is how I will continue.

Question: Why do we stumble over this passage about Jesus cursing the fig tree? Why does it seem out of place? Do we understand hypocritical faith around us today? What can we do to help others here?

* Matthew Henry Commentary in One Volume, Matthew Henry, Regency Reference Library, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1960, p. 1310.

What is the Most Important Commandment?

Jesus answered the teacher of the Law, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God” (Eyewitness Mark 12:34).

Eyewitness: p. 201

In Your Bible: Deut 6:5,8; Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34

Religious leaders often challenged Jesus about what he said: Who to pay taxes to? What about life after death? What is living water? One astute teacher of the Law who seemed to understand more about the truth Jesus was said asked another question. He wanted to know, “Which is the most important commandment”? (Eyewitness Mark 12:28).

He posed his question not to imply that any commandment is little or less important. Rather, which is the first one in God’s eye. In this instance, the religious leaders were trying to capture Jesus in a mistake. But Jesus showed they misunderstood the question altogether.

The Most Important Commandment

Jesus replied, “The most important is, ‘Listen Israel, never forget. The Lord God is our God, the one and only true God. You must love God with all your whole heart, and with all your being, and with all your strength.'” Then he added, “Never seek revenge or carry a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself” (Eyewitness Mark 12:31).

Devout Jew with Phylacteries on head and arm

Devout Jew with Phylacteries on head and arm

Moses ‘ statement, “Listen Israel, and never forget. The Lord our God is the one and only true God” – is the essential creed of Judaism, the Shema said by devout Jews in prayers twice a day. You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might (Deut 6:5) NASB). These passages of the Shema are contained in little leather boxes which the devout Jew wore on his forehead, forearm, and wrist when at prayer. The requirement for wearing these phylacteries is found in Deuteronomy 6:8. For devout Jews, the Shema is also placed in little cylindrical boxes at each door to remind them of God in His coming out and coming in. *

The Second Commandment is Equally Important

The Eyewitness clarifies how to love your neighbor with love from the heart – no hidden grudges! An area often kept in our heart and not divulged. Jesus brought these two commandments together – a new thing for them to hear. No rabbi had done that before!

The teacher of the Law then said something that showied he understood what Jesus was said……..“Teacher you are right in saying [this] and he added, And to love others is more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Eyewitness Mark 12:33).

Jesus encouraged the teacher of the Law. He knew this man had nailed the meaning of what he said. The entire Jewish leadership (Pharisees, Sadducees, and teachers of the Law) now had a lot to ponder, and it challenged them.

Jesus emphasized, “All the Law and the prophets are based upon these two commandments” (Eyewitness Matthew 22:40). Love the one true God and love your neighbor as yourself. Which is the most important – both.

Application: Often we think God’s commands are too hard to keep, to do or both. However, the most important (two) commands for the Jews and Christians remain. These pointed questions to Jesus become great learning opportunities for believers. Jesus brought the love your neighbor into the same importance as loving God.

Prayer: Father, I do love you with all my heart, mind and strength. Help me love my neighbor to show I love you fully.

Question: Why so many commandments? How do we begin to understand God giving us guidance and commands on how to live? 

* The Daily Study Bible, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol 2, William Barclay, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1975, p. 279.

The Good Shepherd

First time to view this devotional blog? Sometimes receiving it by email cuts out photos, so you could also visit my website  dennydewitt.com  to view the blog and get missing photos. Either way follow and enjoy.  Blessings.

“My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).

Eyewitness: pp. 159,160
In Your Bible: John 10:22-42

In John chapter 10, Jesus told a parable about how dedicated, caring and loving a shepherd is for his flock. He explained the shepherd must, if need be, give up his life for his sheep. Neither the believers nor the Jewish leaders present understood. Jesus wonderfully revealed he is the Good Shepherd.

The second part of John 10 was different. The setting for this talk was specific – it was Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication, and winter time. Jesus was walking in the Temple grounds, on Solomon’s Porch. He encountered staunch opposition, yet comforted believers with assurance.

He defines his believers/followers as sheep. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, leads his flock. That fact should encourage all believers – then and now.

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Sheep Know the Shepherd’s Voice

Jewish leaders gathered around Jesus to challenge him …. was he the Messiah? “I’ve already told you,” Jesus said, “But you did not believe me. The miracles I do in my Father’s name prove who I am, but you do not believe, because you are not my sheep” (Eyewitness John 10:25,26).

Jesus then said words every believer should revere, “My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them everlasting life, so they will never die. No thief can take them from me, because my Father has placed them in my care ….. My Father and I are one” Eyewitness John 10:27-29).

Works Only God Can Do Speak For The Good Shepherd

The Jews were ready to stone Jesus for blasphemy. They said he was a man who claimed to be God. Jesus retorted, “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then don’t believe me. But if I am, and you cannot believe me then believe the miracles and know that the Father is in me and I in him” (Eyewitness John 10:37,38).

Jesus escaped as the leaders’ attempt to seize him. Then he stayed at a place beyond the Jordan, where John the Baptist baptized. People said, “John did not do any miracles, but everything John said about this man is true” (Eyewitness John 10:41). Beyond the Jordan, many people believed Jesus was the Messiah.

The Good Shepherd

The Jewish leaders failed to understand the greatness of their God actually sending his Son, for man to see face to face. The Good Shepherd showed he is of God by his miracles, his mercy, his kindness, and his love.

Application: Jesus knows every believer personally – amazing. We can recognize his voice – wonderful. And we cannot be taken away from Jesus – Glory! Yet, we should know, we will be challenged by unbelievers.

Prayer: Father, thank you for your words, your Son, and your Spirit. Keep us empowered for daily living.

Question: If you are one of His sheep, how do others know you are a believer? In what circumstances have you been challenged as a believer? How did it bolster your confidence to continue?

photo credit: Waiting For The Word via photopin cc

Jesus Did More Odd Things

“Look instead for what God can do” (THE MESSAGE John 9:4).

THE MESSAGE: John 9:1-7
In Your Bible: John 9:1-7

Jesus and his disciples came upon a man who was blind. Jesus had already healed many who were blind by disease or accident. However, this is the only miracle in which a sufferer was blind from birth! The Jews unhesitatingly connected suffering with sin. They believed blindness was caused by either the person himself or his family. Belief that children inherit the consequences of sin from their parents is woven throughout the Old Testament.*

Asking the Wrong Question

The disciples pointedly asked Jesus if God caused the blindness. He made an odd reply. Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do” (THE MESSAGE John 9:3-5). He continues, “We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, while the sun shines……I am the world’s Light” (THE MESSAGE John 9:3-5).

The Right Action

Then Jesus showed God at work. He made mud by mixing his spittle and dirt, then rubbed it in the blind man’s eyes. Then he said, “Go, wash at the Pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “Sent”). The man washed – and saw” (THE MESSAGE John 9:6,7). Again, a seemingly odd action by Jesus, resulted in healing the man born blind by the man/God/Jesus.

Jesus heals a blind man

Jesus heals a blind man

Application: The gospel writer, John, gives another example where Jesus is God and a miracle worker. Jesus knew people needed to see him as both. Glory to God!

Prayer: Father, help me see you daily as one with Jesus. Jesus showed it. I believe it. Thank you.

Question: Do we find ourselves asking the wrong questions, then wishing we’d asked differently? Why did Jesus do miracles for mankind? Is it the same today?

* The Daily Bible Study, The Gospel of John, Vol 2, William Barclay, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1956, pp. 45-47.

Photo from: Jesus Life and Times, Flemming H. Revell Company Publishers, Old Tappan, New Jersey, 1979, p.106.

(See my blog on May 23, 2013 for more thoughts on the rest of this passage – John Chapter 9.)