On Sunday night, after the triumphant entry earlier that day, Jesus returns to Bethany for the night. During the week of the Passover, all Jews returned to Jerusalem as it was a requirement that the Passover meal be eaten within the gates of the city. To allow for the mass of people flooding the city, the Governors expanded the geographical bounds of Jerusalem city to include Bethany.
As of Monday 10 Nisan, there are 4 days left till the Passover. That morning Jesus makes his way to the temple again. On the way to the temple he curses a fig tree for failing to bear fruit. Upon arrival in Jerusalem he clears out the temple and this is the second time in his ministry that he does this, calling the merchants there thieves who made it a ‘den of robbers’ instead of a ‘house of prayer’.
The court of the Gentiles was on the outside and it was in this area that the Pharisees had set up the markets. They had turned a place reserved by God where gentiles could come and pray, and turned it to a market where they were making a personal profit out of the business conducted there. Their anger towards Jesus grew monumentally when he cleared out the area – he had cost them significant profit.
After setting his Father’s House in order, Jesus begins to teach again. The scriptures indicate that he was questioned about his teachings because they wanted to trip him out and find a reason to kill him. Jesus, the most brilliant mind in history doesn’t back down. His responses are flawless and he is found to be without imperfection.
This ‘finding’ is important as it coincides with the first day the lamb was in the temple to be inspected for blemishes.
After a day of teaching he returns to Bethany for the night. On the way the disciples notice the fig tree that was cursed earlier that morning is now dead. The fig tree was representative of the state of the Jewish people and the temple – it had leaves, looked healthy from the outside but on the inside there was no fruit – there was corruption.
For example, the Jews had a number of ritual cleansings laws. They white washed the tombs so no one accidentally came into contact with it and became ceremonially unclean, yet they were conducting business and making profit from the house of God, while excluding the gentiles for whom God had specifically made provision.
The one place that they should have been doing some serious missionary work, they were treating as a religious market. Even then, we can see that although God had chosen the Jews as his people, his heart was for everyone. It was through one group (the Jews) that He would redeem all.