"Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, He went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to find out if it had any fruit. When He reached it, He found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then He said to the tree, 'May no one ever eat fruit from you again.' And His disciples heard Him say it." Mark 11:11-14
"In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, 'Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered." Mark 11:20-21
Jesus often warns us to beware of empty religion. In the passage above, Jesus gives a living parable to His disciples about empty religion. Jesus walked around the temple one day. The next day He came to a fig tree that had the appearance of having fruit ahead of season but in fact had no fruit, so Jesus cursed the tree and it withered.
Jesus was demonstrating to His disciples what He saw in the temple. He looked around at everything in the temple and it was just as prescribed in the Torah. It had all the elements of religious life in it, but it was fruitless. See, the leaders of the Jewish faith were plotting to kill Him. The same people that did all the religious things in the temple were going to kill the living temple, the true tabernacle of God, Emanuel. Also, notice that this episode comes directly after the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Jesus was welcomed with religious fervor by some of the same people that would want Him dead. Some of those that shouted, "Hosanna!" would shout, "Crucify Him!" days later.
Empty religion is often better than no religion at all.
"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm... neither hot nor cold... I am about to spit you out of my mouth." Revelation 3:15-16
Some of us are fig trees that look like we might have fruit, but are empty of produce. Jesus cursed a tree like that. Some of us are lukewarm. Jesus spits lukewarm out. Beware of empty religion.
Religion is a necessary part of the Christian life. I'm not one that says Christianity is a relationship not a religion, though I understand that sentiment. Religion is often simply the way we live out our faith. So, if your religion is empty what does that say of the faith you're supposedly living out?
Are you bothered by this? If so, I think that is a good thing. Christ's stinging words hurt the pride of Pharisees and hurt the soul of followers. "Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." Proverbs 27:6. Jesus loves you enough to sting you, to jolt you back to life like a defibrillator.
Is your religion empty? Are you lukewarm? If so, heed the warning of Jesus and respond.
"Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." Revelation 3:19-20
Jesus loves you enough to rebuke and discipline you. Be earnest and repent and open the door of your heart to make your empty religion full today.