12) The next morning as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13) He noticed a fig tree in full leaf a little way off, so he went over to see if he could find any figs. But there were only leaves because it was too early in the season for fruit. 14) Then Jesus said to the tree, “May no one ever eat your fruit again!” And the disciples heard him say it. 15) When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, 16) and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. 17) He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” 18) When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him. But they were afraid of him because the people were so amazed at his teaching. 19) That evening Jesus and the disciples left the city.
Mark 11:12-19, NLT
As they left Bethany Jesus was hungry. I always find it intriguing to witness the human side of the Son of God. Here Jesus is fully God, yet fully man at the same time, and His belly ached from hunger pains. Amazing! Notice Mark tells us that Jesus didn't just see the fig tree, observe that it didn't have any fruit hanging from it's branches and keep on walking. Mark tells us that Jesus went over to the fig tree to SEE if He could find any figs on those branches that were blooming forth with leaves. Where there are leaves on the branches of a fig tree, there should also be figs. Instead of finding plump, ripe figs, Jesus found nothing but the appearance of a fruit that should have been there.
This account is significant to us for a number of reasons. Numerous times in the Old Testament the nation of Israel, God's chosen people, are associated with the fig tree (Jeremiah 8:13; Hosea 9:10; Nahum 3:12). Because they didn't get it then, some hundreds of years later, God sent His precious Son to earth the examine the what-should-be fruit of His chosen people, but Israel had failed the test yet again. They had nothing but the "appearance" of being about the business of God. From the root up (Mark 11:20) they were nothing but a rotten, dead people.
Not only were they rotten from the ground up, they were also rotten from the inside out. Upon Jesus' arrival to the temple, He found not a people busy about the work of His Father inside the temple gates, instead He found a people busy about the work of making themselves greater and richer at the expense of the poor and Gentiles. The court of the Gentiles, the only place within the temple gates available to the Gentile people, a perfect hub for the evangelization of the lost, had been made into a religious marketplace where Jews were exchanging monies and buying sacrifices. These market places were being run by, non-other, than the priests themselves who were benefiting largely from the buying and selling of these goods.
God's temple had become a "den of thieves" (Jeremiah 7:11). According to Campbell Morgan, a "den of thieves" is a place where thieves run to hide after they have committed their wicked deeds. The priests inside the temple were using the "religious services" of the temple to cover up their own personal sins.
Jesus would no longer stand to see His Father's house mocked and blasphemed. He over turned the money changers tables and the seats of those who were selling the doves (Matthew 21:12) and immediately went about His Father's business. Jesus began healing the lame and the blind and ministering to the poor and needy. He taught the Word of God to the people, offering to them the sustenance that would enable their roots to grow deep and strong.
The chief priests and elders of the temple questioned His authority. Jesus in turn questioned them about their authority to question Him; don't you just love it when He does that!?!. The priests and elders tried to trap Him, but He would not be trapped by man. His time had not yet come and so nothing they could say or do would hinder Jesus from being about His Father's business. When the time would come, they would still not be able to "trap" Him, instead He would give His life over to them willingly and without regret.
If Jesus were to examine your "fruit" today what would He find? Would He find fruit that's healthy and growing because it's roots are firmly plant in the Word of God? Or would He find a lot of "leaves" that appear to be bringing forth much fruit but instead, upon closer look, yield nothing but a few rotten pieces of shriveled up fruit?
What about your heart? Is it in need of a temple cleansing? Are there some "tables" in your life that need to be turned over so that you can be about your Father's business?