The tree died.
Peter was the first to notice and he commented to Jesus that the tree He had cursed was now withered. That set a somber gray backdrop for what would turn out to be a tempest of a day. Some call it the Day of Controversy or the Day of Rejection, but Jesus said it best in John 12:31 where the word translated ‘judgement’ is the Greek, krisis. The Great Crisis had begun. It would not end until Sunday morning.
The Pharisees and other Jewish leaders waited for Jesus to arrive, it was a bushwhack! They attacked His authority, “What gives you the right to cleanse the Temple?” They attacked His allegiance and patriotism, hoping to get Him arrested or to make Him lose the confidence of the people. They attacked His theology, trying to trick Him into contradicting Himself and losing the integrity of His message. They attacked His knowledge, trying to get Him to show ignorance of the Torah. Nothing worked. He routed them on every level, but the battle lines were drawn.
Power pools in particular places. Politics draws people who desire power. Some people enter the hat ring to serve, it’s true, but the awful hunger for gaining and retaining power is still the order of the day. Education and intellectualism draws people who desire power. Perhaps it does not draw raw power over people, but the power to be right and wise in our own eyes and the power to persuade, by clever argument, others to our viewpoint. Also the desire to order our universe by thought and provable fact is a seeking after power. Religion also draws people who desire power. Religion excels in the kind of power that makes people die and kill for the cause; the kind of power over ideology and thought that steals free will and piles burden after burden on its followers. Religion, like politics and worldly education, is not a bad thing, but when it’s abused it becomes an evil of the highest magnitude.
That Tuesday Jesus saw the end coming. When some foreign God-seekers came to ask Him for some teaching, He faced the temptation to let go of His mission, to just be a teacher as so many today see Him. But He chose the best route, not the easiest. He continued His journey.
Incidentally, on the following Friday, when He was unjustly executed, murdered, by a corrupt Government and Religious system, a sign was hung on the cross that named Him, satirically, the King of the Jews. This mocking message was written in three languages: Latin, the language of government; Greek, the language of education and knowledge; and Aramaic, the language of His Religion. Christ conquered, but the crisis continues. To be a disciple of Christ is to fight the same battles.