Mark 11 (New Living Translation)
Jesus’ Triumphant Entry
1 As Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. 2 “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks, ‘What are you doing?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it and will return it soon.’”
4 The two disciples left and found the colt standing in the street, tied outside the front door. 5 As they were untying it, some bystanders demanded, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They said what Jesus had told them to say, and they were permitted to take it.
Jesus has everything already arranged for this important week. He has taken care of the colt for his entry into Jerusalem, and later we will see how he has taken care of the location for the Passover meal they will share.
Amy Carmichael says, “When our Lord Jesus comes again He will want to have a company of people upon whom He can count to do anything at a moment’s notice, without fuss or demanding explanation. If that is to be so, we must prepare now. How delightful it must have been for Jesus to be able to count on the owner of the colt and know that he would not disappoint Him. And there was another unknown man in Jerusalem to whom it would be enough to say, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber?
“Are we like them in this readiness? Can we say what David’s servants said to their king in 2 Samuel 15:15? Behold, thy servants are ready to do whatsoever my lord the king shall choose.”
7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it, and he sat on it.
8 Many in the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others spread leafy branches they had cut in the fields.
9 Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
10 Blessings on the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David!
Praise God in highest heaven!”
These statements from the crowd come from Psalm 118:19-29. In this, their praise was Scriptural. It’s important that we praise God as He wants to be praised. So if God says we are to come to Him with words (Hosea 14:2), then that is how we come. If God says we are to come to Him with song (Psalm 100:2), that is how we come. If God says we are to come to Him with hands raised up (Psalm 134:2), that is how we come. The whole point in worship is to do what pleases God, not what pleases us, but the beautiful truth is that when we please God, we find ourselves wonderfully pleased.
11 So Jesus came to Jerusalem and went into the Temple. After looking around carefully at everything, he left because it was late in the afternoon. Then he returned to Bethany with the twelve disciples.
The prophets spoke of the Messiah coming to inspect the Temple:
Malachi 3:1-3 (English Standard Version)
Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.
Jesus Curses the Fig Tree
12 The next morning as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 He noticed a fig tree in full leaf a little way off, so he went over to see if he could find any figs. But there were only leaves because it was too early in the season for fruit. 14 Then Jesus said to the tree, “May no one ever eat your fruit again!” And the disciples heard him say it.
Jesus Clears the Temple
15 When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, 16 and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. 17 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”
18 When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him. But they were afraid of him because the people were so amazed at his teaching.
(During Mark, portions of this book will be presented to help us understand our faith more deeply than perhaps we have before. I hope you enjoy learning more about Jesus as a Jewish man — and through these passages, see and appreciate more clearly the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.)
PRAYERS JESUS PRAYED
Since about A.D. 400, blessings have always started with the words, “Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe . . .” In the first century they were much shorter, simply beginning with the words “Blessed is he . . .” The first book of the Mishnah lists dozens of blessings and when they were used. Here is one of them:
When something terrible happens, you say,
Blessed is he who is the true judge.
19 That evening Jesus and the disciples left the city.
20 The next morning as they passed by the fig tree he had cursed, the disciples noticed it had withered from the roots up. 21 Peter remembered what Jesus had said to the tree on the previous day and exclaimed, “Look, Rabbi! The fig tree you cursed has withered and died!”
When Jesus approached the fig tree, the text indicates that the tree had plenty of leaves. R.K. Harrison, writing in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, explains that various kinds of figs grew in Palestine during the first century. One very important aspect of fig growth has to do with the relationship between the leaf and the fruit. Harrison notes that the tiny figs, known to the Arabs as taksh, “appear simultaneously in the leaf axils” (1982, 2:302) This taksh is edible and “is often gathered for sale in the markets” (2:302). Furthermore, the text notes: “When the young leaves are appearing in spring, every fertile fig will have some taksh on it…. But if a tree with leaves has no fruit, it will be barren for the entire season” (2:301-302).
Thus, when Jesus approached the leafy fig tree, He had every reason to suspect that something edible would be on it. However, after inspecting the tree, Mark records that “He found nothing but leaves.” No taksh were budding as they should have been if the tree was going to produce edible figs that year. The tree appeared to be fruitful, but it only had outward signs of bearing fruit (leaves) and in truth offered nothing of value to weary travelers.
In addition, anyone even slightly familiar with the character of Jesus knows that He did not spend His time on this Earth eradicating barren fig trees as an ecological service to Palestinian farmers. What, then, was the point of such abrupt action against the tree? When one notices the context of the event, Jesus’ intention seems to become apparent and two fold. First, in its immediate context, the barren fig tree seems to apply to the pretentious religion of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. Following Jesus’ curse upon the fig tree, the text says that Jesus went to Jerusalem and began to drive the money changers out of the temple (Mark 11:15-19). The activities in the temple that once had been fruitful and wholesome had become empty of value and useless. Allen Black commented: “The cursing of the fig tree symbolizes God’s judgment on Israel for not bearing the fruit he wanted from the temple. It foreshadows the cleansing of the temple and ultimately the prophecy of its destruction in chapter 13” (1995, p. 200).
Second, in a general sense, Jesus often insisted that trees which do not bear good fruit will be cut down (Matthew 7:19; Luke 13:6-9). The fig tree did not bear fruit, was useless, and deserved to be destroyed: the spiritual application being that any human who does not bear fruit for God will also be destroyed for his or her failure to produce.
Jesus did not throw a temper tantrum and curse the fig tree even though it was incapable of producing fruit. He cursed the tree because it should have been growing fruit since it had the outward signs of productivity. Jesus’ calculated timing underscored the spiritual truth that barren spiritual trees eventually run out of time. As for personal application, we should all diligently strive to ensure that we are not the barren fig tree.
22 Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. 23 I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. 24 I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. 25 But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”
“The one who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.”
—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Lord, give me a forgiving heart!
The Authority of Jesus Challenged
27 Again they entered Jerusalem. As Jesus was walking through the Temple area, the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders came up to him. 28 They demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right to do them?”
29 “I’ll tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question,” Jesus replied. 30 “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human? Answer me!”
31 They talked it over among themselves. “If we say it was from heaven, he will ask why we didn’t believe John. 32 But do we dare say it was merely human?” For they were afraid of what the people would do, because everyone believed that John was a prophet. 33 So they finally replied, “We don’t know.”
. . . and we don’t care. Their answer shows clearly they are not interested in the truth about either John or Jesus. They just want their own power left to them undisturbed.
And Jesus responded, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.”
The wonderful men’s choir Chanticleer with a piece of early 17th-century music by British composer Orlando Gibbons — HERE is “Hosanna to the Son of David.”
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.