Back in Jerusalem, after the triumphal entry. Jesus has cried his tears over Jerusalem and gone into the city. He’s received the hosannas and been warned by the Pharisees. Upon entering the city, Jesus goes into the temple. “And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.” Mark 11:11 ESV. Notice it says he looked around at everything. So the next day, when he actually prophetically blesses the temple, we know that it was a planned action, not a heat of the moment temper tantrum.
So on Monday, Jesus is headed to the temple, but first he comes upon a fig tree. “On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.” Mark 11:12-14 ESV. Now, this is not the season for figs, and Jesus knows it. He is enacting a parable. He is making a point, just as the gospel writer is making a point of including it. Jesus is using the fig tree as a symbolic representation of the temple. Mark told us he entered the temple and looked around following his entry into the city. Know he tells us Jesus is looking for fruit on this fig tree, and finds none. Just as he finds no fruit in the temple. The next morning, remember, Jesus and the disciples pass by the fig tree again. As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God.” Mark 11:14, 20-22 ESV. The withered fig tree which was not producing fruit, on the way to the temple which was not producing the fruit of righteousness and faith in God.
Jesus then goes back into the temple and does his prophetic reenactment of Jeremiah, driving out those inside conducting business during the Passover week. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.” And he was teaching daily in the temple. Notice here it does not mention the whip, and neither do Mark or Matthew. The only gospel that mentions the whip is John’s gospel, because John is the only one that mentions the sheep and cattle. The whip was for the sheep and cattle, not the people.
The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words. How about that translation – the principal men! Those principalities and powers that control society to this day, those men who control the money, the military, and the religious institutions, as well as the spiritual forces behind them. And what does it say about them? It says they were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.
So Jesus is teaching daily in the temple. Those in control of the money, the power, and religion were seeking to destroy him. The people are hanging on his words. Jesus is teaching in the temple about the end of the temple, while those in charge of the temple are planning the end Jesus. They can’t arrest him during the day, because they fear starting a riot or revolt. Jesus remarks on this as he gets arrested a few days later – “And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.”” Mark 14:48-49 ESV.
This is why Judas was so important to the story. Jesus correctly points out that he was every day right there teaching, in the open. They could have taken him anytime. But they feared the people, who were hanging on his every word. They feared starting a riot during Passover. But Judas gives them a way, a way to take him into custody in the dark of night, away from the crowds.
He gave them a way to fulfill their plot to put an end to this Jesus of Nazareth. Principalities and powers to this day are trying to figure out how to put and end to this Jesus business. He’s just so inconvenient.
But none of them could prevent the end of the temple.
“And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.” And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.”
Luke 19:45-48 ESV