MARK CHAPTER 11.
Christ's Entry into Jerusalem. Mark 11, 1-11.
Preparing for the entry: V. 1. And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, He sendeth forth two of His disciples, V. 2. and saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you; and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him. V. 3. And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither. Jesus had probably reached Bethany, on the Jericho road, on Friday evening or Saturday morning. It was a small town located on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives, and about a mile and a quarter from Jerusalem. Beyond the town, on its east side, the road descends quite abruptly into the Jordan Valley. Next to it, on the road to Jerusalem, was a small hamlet or group of farm-buildings, called Bethphage. Jesus left the home of His friends in Bethany early on Sunday morning. As He reached the outskirts of the town, He called two of His disciples to Him and commissioned them for a peculiar service. They were to go to the hamlet which was just before them, which Christ's entire company was about to enter. Without delay, without trouble or difficulty, they would there find a colt tied in a certain place, upon which no person had ever sat. It was a solemn, important mission, foretold even by the prophets. For sacred purposes only unused animals could be employed, Num. 19, 2; 1 Sam. 6, 7. This colt they should untie from tile post and then lead it to Jesus. The directions are very exact and circumstantial, that no mistake is possible. It may, of course, happen that the owner of the animal would object to this proceeding. In that event they were to tell the owner: The Lord has need of him. When He, the great Creator and Master of heaven and earth, is in need of any tiling, it must be forthcoming; any and every creature can be pressed into His service. But, incidentally, tile Lord did not abuse His power. He knew that the owner would send tile animal, but he also promised, by His messengers, that the foal would be returned without delay, after He had had His use of it. This feature serves to enhance tile lowliness of Jesus at His entry: on a borrowed colt, which He has promised to return at once, He rides into the capital city of His nation.
The disciples carry out tile order: V. 4. And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him. V. 5. And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt? V. 6. And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded; and they let them go. V. 7. And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and He sat upon him. The disciples carried out Christ's instructions. Coming to the hamlet or group of farm buildings, they followed the road around the farmyard. And there, tied to the door, probably of a stable, or at the door-post of a larger building in the square of the hamlet, they found the colt, which they promptly proceeded to unloose. Some of those that were standing near by, very likely some of tile laborers of the place, objected and asked for all explanation. But tile disciples used tile words which Jesus had taught them. And so the men, having full assurance that the beast would be safely and speedily restored to the owner, gave them leave to lead tile colt off. And so they brought tile animal to Jesus, throwing their mantles upon him for a saddle, so that Jesus could sit upon the colt.
The reception of Christ: V. 8. And many spread their garments in the way; and others cut down branches off the trees, and strewed them in the way. V. 9. And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. V. 10. Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest! V. 11. And Jesus entered into Jerusalem and into the Temple; and when He had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, He went out unto Bethany with the Twelve. Meanwhile the news that the Prophet of Galilee, Jesus of Nazareth, was coming to the city had spread in Jerusalem. Not only were the pilgrims from Galilee anxious to see Him, but those also from other parts of Palestine where He had been active in His ministry, or where His fame had spread. A peculiar kind of excitement, a form of exultation, took hold of the multitude. In large numbers they flocked forth from the city to meet Him. Those that came early fell in behind Him; those that came later turned around and marched ahead of Him along the road over the brow of the Mount of Olive; Many of these took their mantles, their holiday dresses, and spread them on the way, as at the reception of a great king. Others took the branches of trees, with the first young leaves, and the palm-branches which they bore in their hands, and strewed them on the way. Still others cut off branches from trees in the fields along the road. And when the excitement reached its height, the people broke forth into snatches of antiphonal singing from the great Hallel, Ps. 117; 118, 25. 26. Many of the customs of one great festival were transferred to the other festivals. Thus here the carrying of the palm-branches and other green foliage, the loud exultation, the public singing of the Hosanna, all were features and customs of the Feast of Tabernacles. The people here confessed Jesus as the Son of David, as the Messiah of Israel, whose kingdom was about to be established. The Spirit of the Lord had here, for a few moments, taken hold of the masses. God wanted to give His Son this open testimony concerning His mission, and incidentally point forward to the day, when all tongues will be obliged to confess that Jesus is the Lord. to the glory of God the Father. The entire incident of the entry of Christ into Jerusalem, as it is related in the gospels, is a type of the merciful advent of Jesus into the hearts of His believers, which continues throughout the time of the New Testament. Christ is now exalted at the right hand of God, but He still comes by His Spirit, through His means of grace. He still reigns and lives in His Church and brings to all His subjects mercy, salvation, and peace, all the great benefits which He has earned through His suffering and death.
When Jesus reached Jerusalem, He went up to the Temple. He spent the rest of the afternoon in looking around carefully, with a keenly observant eye. He noted carefully the manner in which the entire worship was done; He marked the traffic which was being carried on in the Court of the Gentiles. But the hour was getting late, and so He went out with the Twelve to Bethany, where He lodged.
The Miracle of the Fig-Tree. Mark 11, 12-26.
The curse upon the tree: V. 12. And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, He was hungry; V. 13. and seeing a fig-tree afar off having leaves, He came, if haply He might find anything thereon; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. V. 14. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter forever. And His disciples heard it. So eager, so concerned, was Jesus about the work of His ministry and about various other matters that had come to His attention that He did not even take time to eat on Monday morning. On their way from Bethany to Jerusalem He felt the pangs of hunger. There was a fig-tree growing by the side of the road, which was in full foliage, though the season was early. But when Jesus went over to it, either to find some of last year's late figs, which sometimes matured in the spring, or to find fruit of the new crop, He was disappointed. All the strength of the tree had gone into foliage; there were no figs. This tree was a type and picture of the Jewish people, and Christ's purpose in performing this peculiar miracle was to bring the attention of His disciples to that fact. The Jews also had the form of godliness, while they denied its power. Three years the Lord had worked in the midst of this nation, in the North and ill the South, but there was little evidence of any Jesuits. The great majority of the people wanted nothing of the Messiah. There was much profession of religion, much boasting of being God's own, peculiar people, but no real, tangible proof of a worship in spirit and ill truth. And so this nation, which God had chosen as His own, would become subject to the curse, just as Jesus here pronounced the curse upon its type, the barren fig-tree. Mark notes that the disciples heard the words of Jesus as He spoke to the tree.
The second cleansing of the Temple: V. 15. And they come to Jerusalem; and Jesus went into the Temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the Temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers and the seats of them that sold doves, V. 16. and would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the Temple. V. 17. And He taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? But ye have made it a den of thieves. V. 18. And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the people was astonished at His doctrine. V. 19. And when even was come, He went out of the city. As soon as Jesus and His disciples had reached, the city on Monday morning, He went up to the Temple. He lost no time in carrying out a plan which He had formulated over night. Once before He had attempted to impress upon the Temple authorities the need of having some regard to the holiness of God's house, John 2, 13-16. And here He saw the same pollution of the holy places which had so enraged Him before. Again, therefore, in holy wrath, He purged the Temple. The sellers and buyers that were gathered in the Court of the Gentiles He drove away. The tables of the money-changers, of the petty bankers, and the seats of those that sold doves He upset. A vivid picture: The lowing of the cattle and the bleating of the sheep, the fluttering of the released doves and the angry cries of the bankers, all mingling in a commotion of endless confusion as they sought to escape from the wrath of Jesus, Whose majestic figure dominated the scene and forbade any interference. This traffic, which had grown out of a permission to such as could not bring their sacrificial animals great distances, had, like many other permitted customs, become a nuisance of the first rank, threatening the sanctity of the holy place itself. For once, Jesus cleaned out the pollution of those that served their own belly and their money-bags more than the holy name of God. After the Temple-court had once more been purged of the invaders, Jesus would not even allow anyone to carry any instrument or tool through the Temple, using it as a short cut. He felt that the sacredness of the place forbade such a proceeding. He then taught the people, in explanation of His act, by referring to Scriptures, Is. 56, 7; Jer. 7, 11. Should they consider and treat the house that was called after His name like a den of thieves, where trafficking. and cheating, and robbing might be carried on unhindered? The real object, the proper use of this house, was that of a house of prayer unto all nations, 1 Kings 8.
This act of Jesus again aroused and embittered the high priests and the scribes. They planned and sought means by which they might put Him out of the way. Their counsels against Him were held with increasing frequency; But they did not dare lay hands upon Him, for the people were simply carried away by admiration of His doctrine, since He taught simply, but effectively, what was written in the Scriptures. But when evening was come, perhaps soon after the time of the evening sacrifice, He again left the city to lodge with friends.
The lesson of the dead tree: V. 20. And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig-tree dried up from the roots. V. 21. And Peter calling to remembrance, saith unto Him, Master, behold, the fig-tree which Thou cursedst is withered away. V. 22. And Jesus, answering, saith unto them, Have faith in God. V. 23. For verily I say unto, you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea, and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass, he shall have whatsoever he saith. It was on Tuesday morning that Jesus again passed by the fig-tree with His disciples. The curse of Jesus had taken effect; the whole tree, from the roots, was withered and dead. On the evening before things had been in shadow, and therefore the apostles could easily overlook the condition of the tree, especially since their minds were likely occupied with other matters. But in the clear morning light the tree stood out from the rest so prominently that Peter remembered the incident of the day before. In a half-pleased and half-awed manner he called the Lord's attention to the result of His curse. Jesus then proceeds to give the disciples a second lesson from the miracle, one applicable to themselves and to the Christians of all times. He impresses upon them His favorite topic, next to the proclamation of the Gospel. Faith in God, trust towards God, absolute reliance upon Him is required in the kingdom of Christ. Solemnly He declares to them that such a trust has mountain-moving properties, that nothing can withstand it. But the confidence must be absolute, unqualified, not tinged by the slightest doubt. With God's command and promise before us, nothing is impossible. A Christian in most cases does not attain the object that he is striving for because there is some apprehension, some doubt in his heart as to the possibility of carrying out the plan. Such vacillating, uncertain natures defeat the ends of faith. And the tool and weapon of faith, by which it accomplishes its great deeds and wins its victories, as Jesus impresses upon His disciples, is prayer.
V. 24. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. V. 25. And when ye stand praying, forgive if ye have aught against any, that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. V. 26. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. There are two factors which defeat the ends of prayer. The first is the lack of trust in efficacy of prayer. There are things which people need, which they desire, which they bring to God in prayer, and yet they lack assurance, they exhibit hesitation, fear as to the outcome. But Christ here states that every prayer of faith is heard. It may be that the fulfillment of wishes comes in a different form than the believer anticipated, in a manner more conducive to his temporal and eternal welfare, but the fact of God's hearing prayer is unassailable. The second reason why prayers often have no effect is because of the condition of the person's heart that presumes to pray. There cannot be, in the heart of a praying person, enmity, hatred, rancor, ill will, or any other unfriendly feeling which is at variance with the demand of God that a forgiving spirit must dominate our actions. No matter whether Christians have been wronged with or without reason, whether they feel hurt rightfully or wrongfully, their hearts must be filled with forgiveness toward all men. If they refuse to forgive, no matter what the occasion or the provocation, they thereby erect a wall, an impenetrable and insurmountable obstacle between themselves and God. They make God's forgiveness of their own sins impossible, and God will not hear the prayers of such as have no clean record before Him, whose sins are not daily and richly forgiven them through the Gospel. Since they refuse their neighbor forgiveness, they shut themselves out from God's mercy and goodness, and render their prayer of none effect.
The Question concerning Christ's Authority. Mark 11, 27-33.
Christ's authority challenged: V. 27. And they come again to Jerusalem; and as He was walking in the Temple, there come to Him the chief priests and the scribes and the elders, V. 28. and say unto Him, By what authority doest Thou these things? and who gave Thee this authority to do these things? By this time the death of Jesus had been definitely decided upon by the Jewish authorities. Daily they had been having sessions to consider ways and means of carrying out their intention; for it was merely a question of finding a favorable opportunity, since they feared to use power on account of the attitude of the people toward Jesus. The temper of a crowd is always uncertain, and they were awaiting developments with some anxiety. In the mean time they dogged the footsteps of Jesus as He came to the Temple on this Tuesday morning. And they could not refrain from nagging. This method, they felt, would effect at least so much, that He could not be teaching the people. In full force they surround Him, the high priests and the scribes and the elders, probably just as they had come out of the council-chamber. Their aim is to disconcert Him by challenging His right, His authority for yesterday's action. They did not attempt to hide their displeasure over His entire manner of speaking and doing things; they resented the implication that He was the Lord of the Temple.
The effective counter-question of Jesus: V. 29. And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer Me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. V. 30. The baptism of John, was it from heaven or of men? Answer Me. V. 31. And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven, He will say, Why, then, did ye not believe him? V. 32. But if we shall say, Of men, they feared the people; for all men counted John that he was a prophet indeed. V. 33. And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. And Jesus, answering, saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things. Jesus was perfectly willing to give them an account of Himself and of all His actions in the Temple, under one condition. He had one single matter concerning which He desired information from them. If they would answer Him about that, He would be glad to tell them by what authority He was performing His miracles, teaching the people and purging the Temple. The question that Jesus proposed proved a dilemma to the Jewish chiefs: Whether the work of John the Baptist, specifically his baptizing, was done by orders from heaven, from God, or on his own responsibility. This was a poser for them. For, as they reasoned themselves in their perplexity, if they should say: From heaven, then the obvious retort would be: For what reason, then, did you refuse him belief? On the other hand: But, suppose we say, from men? This they also did not dare to answer, for they were afraid of the multitude, for all of the common people sincerely held that John was a prophet. In either direction there lay trouble for them, and so they preferred not to answer; whereupon Jesus informed them that He also would not answer their challenge. Their conscience told them that, if even the baptism of John was from heaven, then the ministry of Jesus with His wonderful miracles and powerful preaching must surely have authority from God. Thus unbelief is objectionable even from the standpoint of mere moral reasoning. The unbelievers cannot deny the power of the Word, but refuse to bow to the truth of it. And so, when driven to bay, they make use of lies, evasions, and excuses.
Summary. Jesus makes His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, performs the miracle of the fig-tree, purges the Temple, explains to His disciples the lesson of the dead tree, and answers the challenge of the Jewish authorities concerning His right to do these things.