A Perspective on Tuesday:

Mark 11:20 – 13:37
My head is spinning from today’s ominous events. As we made our morning trek back to the Temple for another day of teaching and encounters with hostile religious leaders, Peter stopped us in our tracks. “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered.” Seeing the dried-up tree jarred me. This was the only time I heard the teacher curse any living thing. What was he conveying? Jesus’ response, “Have faith in God” made little sense. Only when Jesus spoke in parables about a man planting a vineyard did I begin to understand.

In Jesus’ story, tenant farmers in charge of the vineyard mistreated the owner’s servants who had come to collect the harvest earnings. After all his servants had been beaten or killed, the owner sent them his only son. Instead of treating him with respect, the tenants killed him so the inheritance would be theirs. The chief priests and experts in the law knew Jesus was directing this parable against them.

Their dead, heartless religion was the withered fig tree.

What a wise teacher Jesus is! In his encounters with the religious leaders, Jesus knew he was being set up by their pretentious questions. Jesus never fell into their traps questioning his authority about eternal marriages, or paying taxes. As one psalmist wrote: to the shrewd, he shows himself shrewd. Jesus used teaching moments to help us see who was genuine and who was not.

He commended one expert in the law for recognizing that love surpasses religious ceremonies. When a poor widow offered all she had, he declared she gave more than those who gave great wealth.

His prophecy about the destruction of the Temple and coming desolation is hard to sort out. Some of what he warned us is imminent while other events are yet to come. He taught us to recognize what is obvious but declared that “no one knows, except the Father” when this will occur.

His admonishment: Stay awake for my return keeps running through my mind. In the midst of scary times, I take to heart the teacher’s instructions:

Have faith in God. Remember that loving God and people is what’s most important; stay spiritually awake. God is good. Even when things aren’t good, we can trust God. Instead of dark, cynical analysis, it lifts us to the expansiveness of love, joy, and peace.

— John Mark (a young disciple of Jesus)

written by Robert Casady

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