“Now when the Sabbath was past, [on] the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him.
Every generation struggles with devising a thoroughly biblical definition of the Church. Previous generations defined the Church through ecclesiastical hierarchies. Others shaped their characterization of the Church around her distinct separateness from the world.
On the day of his Moscow arrest- February 12th, 1974 – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn published what would be his final message to the Russian people before the government exiled him to the West. In the title of the exhortation, he urged the Russian people to “live not by lies!” What did it mean to live by lies? It meant, Solzhenitsyn writes, “Accepting without protest all the falsehoods and propaganda that the state compelled its citizens to affirm – or at least not to oppose – to get along peaceably under totalitarianism.”
Jesus was responding to the Pharisees when he answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let not man separate.’” (Matthew 19.4-5)
We must not think that Jesus (Mt.21.18-27), was simply angry at the tree and struck out against it like a child might throw down a cell phone and break it just because he can’t make it work. Jesus was not being petulant. He was teaching an important lesson with two points. First, the religion of Israel, focused in her leaders, was not producing fruit. It was a case of blatant hypocrisy. Second, any religion like it will always wither up at last, becoming as dry as a tree that is no longer nourished by its roots.
We come now to Jesus’ final break with Judaism, and we should be aware by now of how it is unfolding. We have read about the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem by which the Lord presented Himself as Israel’s true King, knowing that He would be rejected by both the leaders and the masses of the people; and another symbolic action, the cleansing of the temple, which would be no more permanent this time than it had proven to be the first time. In the verses we come to now, we find a third symbolic action: the cursing and withering of the fig tree.