Now when they drew near Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples; 2 and He said to them, “Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it. 3 And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it,’ and immediately he will send it here.”Well time has obviously passed pretty quickly. ;-) The first ten chapter don't really read like 3 years have gone by--at least, not to us modern folks who can travel thousands of miles in a day or two. But here we are at the triumphal entry.
4 So they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door outside on the street, and they loosed it. 5 But some of those who stood there said to them, “What are you doing, loosing the colt?”
6 And they spoke to them just as Jesus had commanded. So they let them go. 7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and He sat on it. 8 And many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
10 Blessed is the kingdom of our father David
That comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!”11 And Jesus went into Jerusalem and into the temple. So when He had looked around at all things, as the hour was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve.
What strikes me here is the simple reaction of the people with the colt. The Lord has need of it is all they need to hear, and they make no more complaint. May we all be so in tune with him and what he asks of us!
12 Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. 13 And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.”I admit that this little section always struck me as a bit odd. Why was Jesus expecting something unreasonable from a mere tree? But I think he did this just to show his disciples one more time the power the Spirit can give, as we'll see below.
And His disciples heard it.
15 So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 16 And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. 17 Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ”The money-changers were ripping people off. They were charging huge fees, their goal being profit, not glorifying God. And the sellers of doves were doing likewise--it was supposed to be that you could bring your own sacrifice, so long as it was without blemish. But the inspectors had gotten to the point where they declared everything blemished unless it had been bought at the temple. It had gotten to the point of a movie theater--"No outside food or drink allowed."
18 And the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His teaching. 19 When evening had come, He went out of the city.
Of course this offended Jesus, and he needed to make a stand--he needed to make visible demonstration saying, "This is not the way it should be. This is displeasing to God. You have taken something that is supposed to be about repentance and turned it into a money-maker. You've cheapened the most sacred of things."
20 Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. 21 And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.”And here we see the miracle. Jesus could have said, "Bear fruit," and the tree would have produced figs. But fruit can grow naturally in a few days. Instead, he cursed this tree so that he disciples would see that the impossible had happened. Trees do not wither from the roots up and die within a few days. The fact that this one did got the attention of Peter as a random fig would not have done.
22 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. 23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
So then this lesson could be taught. If we have faith . . . if we have the Holy Spirit . . . if we're walking hand in hand with Him . . . we don't have to pray, "Lord, do you think maybe you could wither this tree? Could you move this mountain please, God?"
If we're walking as we should with Him, we're supposed to know when something is inside His will or outside it. And knowing that, we can operate in the power of the Spirit. Not asking God to do something for us, but commanding the thing to be done.
This section reminds me of Moses, actually. When they get to the Red Sea and he cries out to God, God answers with a touch of impatience. Why do you cry to me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. (Ex 14:15, 16). He's telling Moses here, "I've already given you the authority. Use it."
This is the same lesson Jesus teaches his disciples here. "Command authority, and the world will respond. Ask in prayer, believing, and it will be given."
25 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”This little section puts a ton of weight on forgiveness, doesn't it? If we don't forgive others, God won't forgive us. Is that something we consider as we hold onto our grudges? That it's our own soul we're endangering?
27 Then they came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to Him. 28 And they said to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority to do these things?”
29 But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one question; then answer Me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things: 30 The baptism of John—was it from heaven or from men? Answer Me.”
31 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 32 But if we say, ‘From men’”—they feared the people, for all counted John to have been a prophet indeed. 33 So they answered and said to Jesus, “We do not know.”
And Jesus answered and said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
So my question for Mark 11 ~ Why do we think Jesus chose the demonstrations he did in his final week? The withering of the fig tree, the overturning of the tables--these are some of the last actions we see him take. What makes them the perfect final teachings?