Jesus leaves the house of Bethany, situated on the Mount of Olives. Bethany is referred to as the village of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, and is located about 15 minutes from Jerusalem (John 11:18). Jesus goes to the temple, where He spends His days during the week. The evenings are spent resting in Bethany (Luke 21:27-38).
On His way to the temple, Jesus curses a fruitless fig tree (Mat. 20:18,19) and (Mark 11:12-20). Jesus curses the fig tree because it has leaves, but no fruits. Usually, fruits grow at the same time as leaves on a fig tree. St. Mark remarks that this is no season for ripe figs and that there should be no leaves on the tree, either. Thus, the presence of leaves is a false promise of fruits, a kind of pretense. Jesus takes the tree as a symbol of the Jewish nation. The nation boasts to be a blessed people because of the Law, the temple and the religious rituals related to the fasting and offering of sacrifices. However, the nation lacks the faith, love and holiness to accept Jesus Christ and obey His commandments.
It appears that the Lord did not curse the tree because it had no fruits, but because the leaves gave a false promise of fruits. This is how God rebukes a fruitless person. “These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving [only] themselves. [They are] clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” (Jude 1:12,13).
On the same day, Jesus enters the temple. In the temple, Jesus casts out the people who are selling and buying. Jesus will not suffer anyone to carry vessels through the temple (Mark 11:15,16). Jesus compares the temple to a ‘den of thieves’ because the buyers and sellers are disturbing the holiness of the temple, referred to as “My Father’s house”. Jesus wants to tell them, “You have dishonored my house with your trade. You are cheating God’s rights. You have transformed the divine sanctuary into a marketplace for material profit, depriving those who come for worship from the opportunity to raise their hearts to God in the holy place designed for adoration. You are robbing the strangers, extorting their money against the goods they are buying for sacrifices.
The cursing of the fig tree and the casting out of the traders are the most important events on Monday. Throughout the rest of the day, Jesus is teaching and performing miracles, infuriating the high priests and the guardians of the temple. For this purpose, the Church organizes the readings of Monday and the vigil of Tuesday to be centered around the cursed tree that had leaves and no fruits and the use of the temple for a materialistic trade.
The Church makes it clear that to be able to live in Christ, as our Savior teaches us through the parables, we should be aware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. The true physician of souls knows the danger of hypocrisy and where the disease lies. He loves the publicans and the sinners whose healing He can foresee. Furthermore, Jesus tells the woman caught in sin, “Neither I, do condemn thee” (John 8:11). On the other hand, Jesus has no pity for hypocrisy because it is the root of all diseases. By justifying the sinner in his own eyes, hypocrisy prevents a sinner from healing. As we begin to commemorate the sufferings of our Lord, let us prepare our hearts for the Holy Spirit to help us escape from hypocrisy so that we may benefit from His fruits during the Holy Pascha.