Vol. 5, No. 10
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In Matthew 21:17-20, we read about Jesus cursing a fig tree on the Mount of Olives. He was coming from Bethany and going into Jerusalem. We know that the village of Bethphage was very close to Bethany. Bethphage means "house of figs." It is very likely that the fig tree in our verses was near Bethphage.
Jesus was hungry and saw a fig tree with leaves on it. This was not the season for figs to be ripe. In fact, this was not even the season for the fig tree to have leaves. When Jesus found that the tree did not have any fruit, he told the tree that it would never again give fruit. It quickly withered away.
Jesus was giving a lesson by cursing the tree. He was telling us that it is wrong to put on a false face. We should not give the impression that we are doing something when we really are not. The tree gave the impression that it was giving fruit. It really was not.
But an even more important message was in what Jesus did. The Jewish Sanhedrin had a special meetinghouse in Bethphage. The Sanhedrin were in charge of judging many things of a secular and of a holy nature. They set the limits on legal measurements. In fact, the Sanhedrin would have probably been the ones who made the final judgment regarding the crucifixion of Christ.
Jesus was making a point that the Sanhedrin had a face of being fruitful but that they really had no fruit. And it would not be long before they would be made to wither away like the fig tree. There would be a new place to get fruit. The Old Law was going to be nailed to the cross with Jesus and would no longer give life to the Jews. Jesus would institute the New Law beginning on the Day of Pentecost just a couple of months later. He makes this very point in verse 43 when he states, "Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth fruits thereof."
I am glad that we have the Bible to tell us about all of these things. I am glad that God gave us the New Law. Through it, we have the opportunity to live forever with God in heaven. But we must obey him. And only by studying, can we learn what we must do.
Keep reading your Bible. Do not be like the Sanhedrin and others who refused to follow Jesus.
At the time Jesus lived, there was an arched bridge built from the east gate of the Temple to the Mount of Olives. This bridge kept someone from having to go down into the valley to get from one place to the other. This was important, as the valley was considered unclean.
We know from historical sources that the east wall of the Temple was built shorter than the other four walls. This was so that when the High Priest went out of the camp to sacrifice the red heifer he could see the Temple from where he was standing. The Mount of Olives was directly east of the Temple. From this and historical sources we know that the red heifer was sacrificed on the Mount of Olives.
So, the bridge was the way the High Priest went to get from the Temple to the Altar on the Mount of Olives. The paved road from the bridge to the Altar area was known as The Descent of the Mount of Olives. The whole distance from the Temple steps of the East Gate to the top of the Mount of Olives was considered the most holy road into the Temple.
In Luke 19:28-40, we read about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Verse 37 says that he came nigh "at the descent of the mount of Olives." Jesus was on this most holy road going into Jerusalem. As the crowd surrounded him and praised him as King and as Hosanna in the Highest (Matthew 21), they could actually see over the east wall into the Temple. How sad that not too long after this Christ would be crucified because the Jews rejected him.
I am glad that Jesus came to earth. I am glad that he is Lord. We should praise him as King and Lord. It is wonderful that God gave us the Bible so that we could read and study about what we need to do to live right with God. The Bible is so interesting to study. Even seemingly simple phrases like "the descent of the mount of Olives" can hold a great deal of information if we just take time to study.
Until next time, keep reading your Bible. And if any of this is hard to understand, ask an adult to help you.