So you know where I’m going with this, I see the transition from the Triumphal Entry to the looking around the temple as the single most decisive point in Israel’s history. For it is in this transition that the coming king of Israel turns into Israel’s prosecuting judge.
You may recall how at least twice in Genesis the judgment of God came upon a people only after Yahweh came down to see for himself whether or not the bad report that had come up to the heavens was accurate.
Genesis 11:4-8 Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth." 5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech." 8 So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.
Genesis 18:20-22 Then the LORD said, "Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know." 22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD.
It seems to me that Jesus has now assumed this role as he looks around the temple. But why do I see it this way? There are two other items, one from Mark’s account, and one from Luke’s, which cause me to see things this way.
First, Luke tells us that Jesus actually pronounced a verdict and sentence upon Jerusalem because it “did not know the time of [its] visitation.”
Luke 19:41-46 41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, "Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation." 45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46 saying to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be a house of prayer,' but you have made it a den of robbers."
Israel had the Scriptures and the prophets which all pointed to Jesus as the messiah. Yet, when King Jesus arrived, they were utterly ignorant, unable to discern who he was. The nation that was to be fruitful and multiply was found to be rotten to the core. Therefore, the coming King of Israel became the judge who pronounced the verdict and sentence.
Next time I’ll try to finish up with Mark’s account of the actual cursing of the fig tree.