Studies in the Gospel of Mark- Chapter 11
I. The King of the Kingdom Advancing
A. Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.'” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. (Mar 11:1-11)
B. This is what is referred to as Palm Sunday. Jesus is preparing to enter the city around 5 days before Passover. the custom was for the (pesach) Passover lambs to be brought into the city for a four day inspection to make sure they were suitable for sacrifice. They had to be one year old, and without spot or blemish. This would be the inauguration day for Jesus to be examined by the chief priests, scribes, Pharisees, and others culminating with the Roman procurator, Pilate, declaring “I find no fault in Him” and the rest of the crowd saying “Crucify (Sacrifice) Him”
C. This act of riding into the city on a donkey was a direct fulfillment of a prophecy from Zechariah 9.Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zec 9:9) In addition it once again revealed the humility the Son of God demonstrated in submitting to His Father’s Will and not forcing a governmental demonstration before its time.
D. The Crowd’s response was also a prophetic fulfillment from Psalm 118:25,26. At this moment they recognized this man was the fulfillment of the promise made to their Beloved King David. It was a glorious day and revived many great expectations that were to be delayed for a future time that we look too as well.
E. Jesus entered the temple and in this account he surveyed what was going on in the temple but decided to return to Bethany with His disciples.
II. The King and His Authority over Nature and Man’s Systems
A. On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it. And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city. As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” [But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your trespasses.] (Mar 11:12-26)
B. The fact that Jesus was hungry shows us His humanity. He saw a fig tree with leaves. Now it wasn’t the time for figs so this fig tree was way ahead of schedule. Fig trees produce their figs first and then the leaves come out. Therefore this fig tree even though it was not the season for figs was promising fruit that it did not produce. You may read this and think poor fig tree. And Judah and Israel lived in safety, from Dan even to Beersheba, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, all the days of Solomon. (1 Kings 4:25) This was a common statement throughout the scripture for the fig tree to represent peace, provision, and safety. Here Jesus curses this Fig Tree because it was promising something it could not deliver. As we will see this is indicative of the religious system of the day.
C. When He entered the temple he began to clean it out. This is the second temple cleansing accomplished by Jesus. The first was at the beginning of His ministry and in that cleansing John records that he rid the temple of all manner of animals and this second cleansing only mentions money-changers and birds. Too often we allow things back into the temple of our lives after the Lord has cleansed us.
D. Jesus quotes these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (Isa 56:7) Jesus was revealing that those in charge of the temple as well as those worshippers coming to the house were complicit in this sin, and as a result, it had become a den of thieves. Restoring the house at this point was not the plan of God, but fulfilling the righteous requirements that would end the sacrificial system and thus the need for a location for the sacrifices to take place. In its place God would construct a dwelling for the Spirit in and among God’s people individually and corporately who abide in the Vine thus becoming a House of Prayer.
E. The fig tree was withered from the roots up and the disciples were amazed and Jesus’ simple reply was to “Have Faith in God” “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith. (Hab 2:4) For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Rom 1:17) Faith is not arbitrary it is placed in a person. The system of Judaism promised something it could not deliver. It carried a curse and now was withering. For us it is Faith in God speaking to the mountain seeing it removed and cast into the sea.
F. Jesus gives us the most profound teaching on prayer. Being the House of Prayer, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
III. The King’s Authority Questioned
A. And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘From man’?”–they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” (Mar 11:27-33)
B. The religious leaders wanted to destroy Jesus. They wanted Him to reveal the fact that He believed He was from God, so they could accuse Him of blasphemy. Though Jesus was willing to answer their question He wanted them to publicly deny or validate John’s ministry. In so doing they would either impugn or justify their standing with the people, manifest their defunct logic in not accepting Jesus’ authority, and reveal their own devious plot to invalidate Jesus. They would not answer so Jesus said their unresponsiveness did not deserve a response either.