The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Mark 11

Mar 11:1

Mar 11: "The crowds are gathering in Jerusalem for the time of Passover. There is a triumphant entry into Jerusalem, as the Lord Jesus approached for the last time. For a moment the people responded, realising to some extent the significance of this prophet of Nazareth, until the leaders of the Ecclesia turned them against him. The record reveals: (1) Triumphal entry into Jerusalem: vv 1-10. (2) In Jerusalem: v 11. (3) The barren fig tree: vv 12-14. (4) Second cleansing of the temple: vv 15-17. (5) Murderous hatred of the priests: v 18. (6) Lesson of the withered fig tree: vv 20-26. (7) Jesus' authority questioned: vv 27-33.

"The solitary fig tree by the wayside, evidently upon an eminence, for it was seen 'afar off.' It represented the very nation that was typified by the fig throughout its history. The tree was precocious, having leaves but no fruit. It should have contained fruit throughout the year. Its ostentatious show of leaves was like the fig leaf covering of Adam and Eve. It was a graphic illustration of Israel, and Christ's parables" (GEM).

BETHPHAGE: "House of figs", natural Israel.

BETHANY: "House of dates", spiritual Israel. Upright palms of the Gentiles. The home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

AT THE MOUNT OF OLIVES: "On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem" (Zec 14:4).

Mar 11:2

COLT: Colt of an ass, humble -- used by kings rather than the horse. Peaceful burden-bearer.

WHICH NO ONE HAS EVER RIDDEN: "No man can serve two masters." Uniqueness, separateness. Cp the tomb of Jesus: "in which no one had ever been laid" (John 19:41).

Mar 11:4

TIED AT A DOORWAY: "Door" = Christ in Joh 10:7.

IN THE STREET: "In a place where two ways met" (AV). "Met", not "parted": (1) Jews and Gentiles, or (2) Two natures of Jesus, human and divine.

This is the story of our lives. We constantly find ourselves at the point where two ways meet -- and a decision must be made as to which way we will go.

Mar 11:7

"An unusual sympathy between rider and mount for an unbroken colt to walk quietly in the midst of a shouting crowd" (SMk 152). Also, a suggestion that Jesus was not a very large man?

THREW THEIR CLOAKS OVER IT: Sig Christ the burden-bearer (Mat 11:28-30).

Mar 11:8

Let us lay the garments of our glory in the dust at Jesus' feet.

BRANCHES: Palm branches (Joh 12:13).

Mar 11:9

Psa 118:19-26: a familiar psa sung at Passover and Pentecost, including: "open the gates... rejected stone... blessed is he that comes... bind sacrifice to the horns of the altar..." (Quoted by Christ himself as applicable to the Messiah: Mat 21:42.)

HOSANNA: "Save, pray", from Psa 118:25: "Save, now, we beseech thee, O Lord."

Generally... "Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm. On that day they will say to Jerusalem, 'Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.' The sorrows for the appointed feasts I will remove from you; they are a burden and a reproach to you" (Zep 3:14-18).

"This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!" (Est 6:6,9).

Mar 11:11

HE LOOKED AROUND AT EVERYTHING: The final survey, the day of visitation.

HE WENT OUT TO BETHANY: The Glory departs: Eze 10:1,19; 11:23; Heb 13:3. Why? Because of the abominations inside. "Outside the camp" (Heb 13:13).

Mar 11:13

SEASON: "Kairos" = harvest, or reaping, as in Mat 13:30; Gal 6:9. It was not harvest time for figs; but yet some early fruit should have been there (Xd 121:336; LB 349). First-ripe figs are usually formed before the leaves. Green figs are edible too. See Luk 13:7. Outward pretense, show. As in Eden, rep a vain attempt to cover "nakedness".

Mar 11:14

"In some sheltered spot by the roadside a fig tree attracted the attention of Jesus, as it must have drawn the wondering eyes of many travellers on their way to the Passover. At that time of the year fig trees were normally without either fruit or leaves. The sight suited his purpose well for it presented him with the opportunity of giving a practical illustration of the parable of the barren fig tree, and of completing a picture which had been left in abeyance. The time of figs was not yet; they appeared before the leaves. Here was a fig tree which made great boast of itself, challenging those who passed by to behold from the richness of its foliage, the succulence of its fruit. Yet, accepting the invitation, the hungry wayfarer was doomed to disappointment, for in spite of its lofty pretensions this tree was no better than the other trees. Its fault lay not so much in its barrenness as in its empty promises. No more penetrating picture of Israel can be imaged than that afforded by this sheltered tree with its abundance of green leaves stirring gently in the morning air. Nor can we confine the picture to natural Israel. It must ever be a challenge to Israel after the spirit also. The richness of the promise must be supported by the abundance of the fruit" (MP 298).

MAY NO ONE EVER EAT FRUIT FROM YOU AGAIN: The cursing of the priesthood of Israel: Leaves = healing (Rev 22:2), but the priests (and Israel's other leaders) could not heal (Jer 6:14; 8:11,13,15,22; ct Mat 21:14).

Mar 11:15

The purging of the leaven from the house of God (Exo 12:19). "The action of the Lord in cleansing the temple is often quoted as an example of righteous indignation. Yet in all the four records (Mat 21, Mar 11, Luk 19, Joh 2) it is nowhere stated that the Lord was angry. Certainly it was not righteous indignation which drove back those soldiers, ordered to arrest him (Joh 7:46); nor was it righteous indignation which made armed men retreat and fall to the ground in Gethsemane (Joh 18:6). Was not the same power at work in the temple incident? But even if we concede that the Lord might have been expressing righteous indignation, what right have we unrighteous ones to claim that we can also show righteous indignation? It is more likely that we are confusing righteous indignation with wrathful feelings of revenge, personal provocation, and wounded pride. Certainly the Lord never lost his temper. Every word and action was under complete control" (Bilton, Xd 114:218).

The tables of moneychangers, overturned by Jesus, while the coins fall on the floor (Mat 21:12; Luk 19:45; Joh 2:14). Cp this with Judas throwing the 30 pieces of silver into the temple (Mat 27:5). Imagine the coins clattering and clanking along the floor, while the priests scurried here and there to gather up and hide the evidence. In both cases, this was money paid for "sacrifices"!

// Mat 21:12-16 / Luk 19:45: Here is the second temple cleansing (cp Psa 69:9). The other sacrifices are driven away; Christ is soon to become the one true sacrifice... and so "the zeal for your house has consumed me" (as though he were an offering on the altar).

Mar 11:16

Traffic in oil and wine. There was also a shortcut through temple courts for regular commerce.

Mar 11:17

A symbolic indication that the court of the Gentiles was henceforth to be holy also (Gal 3:28). This scene took place in the court of the Gentiles (LTJM 114). By using this area for moneychangers, the leaders had forgotten their delegated role of witnessing to the Gentiles (Zec 9:8).

A HOUSE OF PRAYER: Cited from Isa 56:7. Not just a house where prayer is offered -- which is true enough -- but also a "house" (a spiritual house) built up by and consisting of prayers offered by many individuals. With our prayers we "build" the "house" in which God dwells.

Mar 11:20

Many detractors of our Lord have pointed with glee to what on the surface seems like a fit of petty anger on Christ's part, spawned by His selfish appetite. In reality, it was probably unrealistic to expect figs at that time of year, a fact which He must have known quite well. Perhaps the key to the whole passage is in the fact that "his disciples heard it."

It may be seen that Christ was using the barren fig tree to teach his disciples something they desperately needed to know. This might be called a living parable. Our Lord had just come from his triumphal entry into the city, having been proclaimed as King by the multitude (vv 7-11), knowing their shallow adoration would soon turn into cries for his death. Leaving the fig tree, he drove the money changers from the temple grounds, having recognized that they were not only exploiting all the Jews who entered, but had taken over the court of the Gentiles, using it as a shortcut through town (v 16) and a place of business (v 15), thus denying the possibility of true worship to all, both Jews and Gentiles. The fig tree was an object lesson on barrenness, typifying the Jewish nation's condition in spite of their privileged heritage. This type of hypocritical fruitlessness receives condemnation (vv 20,21), exhibits a lack of faith (vv 24-26), and hinders our prayers (vv 24-26).

FROM THE ROOTS: Not gradually, ie with the uppermost branches first, but rather suddenly, supernaturally, from roots upward.

Mar 11:21

RABBI: Mark frequently uses Aramaic expressions: Boanerges (Mar 3:17), Talitha koum (Mar 5:41), Korban (Mar 7:11), Ephphatha (Mar 7:34), Rabbi (Mar 9:5; 11:21; 14:45), Bartimaeus (Mar 10:46), Abba (Mar 14:36), Golgotha (Mar 15:22), Eloi (Mar 15:34).

THE FIG TREE YOU CURSED HAS WITHERED: That is, immediately, upon Christ's saying these words, its sap was dried up, it lost its verdure; its leaves were shriveled and shrunk up, and dropped off, and the whole was blasted. This tree was an emblem of the Jews: Christ being hungry, and very desirous of the salvation of men, came first to them, from whom, on account of their large profession of religion, and great pretensions to holiness, and the many advantages they enjoyed, humanly speaking, much fruit of righteousness might have been expected; but, alas! He found nothing but mere words, empty boasts, an outward show of religion, an external profession, and a bare performance of trifling ceremonies, and oral traditions; wherefore Christ rejected them, and in a little time after, the Gospel, was taken away from them, and their temple, city, and nation, entirely destroyed. Are we then, bringing forth "fruits meet for repentance" in our lives, or will we suffer the same de-creating blast that Christ afforded this sad fig tree nearly 2,000 years ago?

Mar 11:23

THIS MOUNTAIN: The mountain of Israel: cast out among other nations. Or, more specifically, the Temple mountain (sym law), to be removed in AD 70. Cp Mic 7:19 (sins cast into sea); Luk 17:6 (tree cast into sea).

Here, I think, the "all things" needs to be limited to "all things which are in accordance with the will of the Father", or "all things which are for your ultimate benefit". We are like little children; if we somehow were given 'carte blanche' to have anything and everything WE want, then there would be no end to the damage we could do to ourselves and others. We need to be protected from ourselves. A loving Father would never give us the keys to the "candy store", and then leave us alone to gorge ourselves.

But... "all things" which work together for our ultimate salvation? Yes, of course, He will give us that. Consider Rom 8: "If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all -- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us ALL THINGS? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died -- more than that, who was raised to life-- is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

This passage puts the same point both positively and negatively: firstly, God will give us "all things" that will help us, to the utmost of His power, to attain to lasting faith, true forgiveness of sins, and a place in His kingdom. And thus we are assured that "nothing" (not even death itself, or terrible persecutions or trials) will keep us from the love of God in Christ, and a place in that Kingdom.

Having said that, I might add -- yes, in fact, even the greatest "mountain" will be moved, if we ask it. First of all, the asking ought to be in keeping with the will of God. And secondly, Jesus didn't state limitations as to TIME! One day, when Christ returns, the whole world will be "torn down" and "rebuilt" in a new and glorious "creation", and every "mountain" (all the kingdoms, creations, wealth, and power of sinful man) will be brought low! It WILL happen. And we will be there to see it if we have faith as a grain of mustard seed, and if we pray for that day to come.

I'm looking forward to seeing all the "mountains" moved (Rev 6:14)! Maybe I'll move a few myself... if Christ asks me to do so!

Is it possible that the greatest "mountain" is (and was) the "great stone" which sealed shut the tomb of Jesus (Mat 28:2-4; Mar 16:4; Luk 24:2; Joh 20:1)? And this mountain has already been moved!

Mar 11:24

BELIEVE THAT YOU HAVE RECEIVED IT: Past tense, not present tense (as in AV): "Believe that God has blessed you in times past, and -- because of your faith -- He will bless you again." Cp Deu 7:17,18; 1Sa 17:37; Psa 22:4; 34:6,7; 2Co 1:9-11.

Mar 11:25

FORGIVE HIM: "The fate of the barren fig tree is no excuse for a life in which the blasting of such trees becomes one's obsession" (ADN 106).

ANYTHING... ANYONE: Notice the widest poss application.

Mar 11:27

Christ was policing the Temple. A follow-up on the cleansing of the Temple (Mat 21:12-17; Mar 11:15-19; Luk 19:45-48).

Mar 11:28

BY WHAT AUTHORITY: Three years before, Nicodemus had come as a delegate of the Sanhedrin. What had they done with his report? (Christ was not a Levite, a priest, nor in any way accredited by some rabbi. Wandering "holy men" were allowed to speak freely -- but not with voice of authority, in Temple, etc.

Mar 11:29

Three years eariler, Nicodemus had come to Jesus as a delegate of Sanhedrin. What had they done with his report?

Mar 11:30

Of course, this WAS his answer: Jesus was accredited by John the Baptist. If they had tested John's claim (Deu 18:21,22), they would have been prepared to accept Jesus.

Mar 11:33

NEITHER WILL I TELL YOU...: The evidence was already there. Their reasoning and understanding was based on flesh and on their own personal preferences -- regardless of truth. They openly denied obvious truth: "By Beelzebub" (Mar 3:22,23,28).

Notice: they answer, "We don't know" -- which really means, "We won't tell you." Thus Jesus reciprocates in his answer: not "I don't know", but instead, "Neither will I tell you!"

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