Mark 11:1-10 When they arrived outside of Jerusalem, Jesus sent two of His disciples to go into a village and bring back a tied up colt which no one has ever sat upon. If anyone was to question them, they were to say that the Lord had need of it and will bring it back. When they retrieved the colt, and everything happened the way Jesus said it would, the disciples took off their outer cloaks and placed it on the donkey and jesus sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road and other leafy branches. They shouted Hosanna, which means “Save, now!” They shouted, blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest! Such action was part of the ancient practice of welcoming a new king.
Notes: Jesus enters Jerusalem upon a colt and is hailed as the triumphant Messiah of Israel. The Triumphal Entry takes place at the beginning of Passover week, which recalls the Jewish people’s liberation from Egyptian slavery. The pilgrims now anticipate the messianic liberation from Rome’s oppression. The claims of the disciples are ultimately true, but it will not be Rome that is defeated now but Satan, sin, and death.
Mark 11:11-14 When they arrived in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple. It was late, so they headed back to Bethany for the night. The next morning on their way back to Jerusalem, Jesus was hungry. When He came across a fig tree with no fruit, for it wasn’t the season for it to grow fruit, He said to the fig tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” Jesus’ direct address to the tree personified it and condemned it for not providing what its appearance promised.
Notes: Jesus and the Twelve stay a short distance outside Jerusalem in Bethany, probably with their friends Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. Jesus’ Judgment on Religious Leaders. Jesus’ first actions, after being hailed by the people as King, are to pass judgment on Jerusalem figuratively through the cursing of the fig tree and the cleansing of the temple, which highlight Jesus’ zeal for true worship of God. Even though it wasn’t the season for figs, the leaves are supposed to grow with the figs. This is symbolic of the hypocrisy of all who have the appearance that they are bearing fruit, but in fact are not. The fig tree represents Israel, and the cursing of the fig tree signifies the judgement of God on the “fruitless” Jewish people who had turned away from God in empty ritual and legalism.
Mark 11:15-19 When Jesus entered the temple, He drove out those who sold and bought, overturned the tables of of the money changers and the seats of those that sold pigeons for sacrifices. He wouldn’t allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He said to all, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” The chief priest and scribes heard this and sought a way to destroy Him, for they feared Him because everyone was astonished at his teaching. Jesus and the disciples left the temple at evening.
Notes: Tables were set up to enable pilgrims to change their respective currencies into coins for the annual temple tax, as well as to purchase pigeons, lambs, oil, salt, etc., for various sin and thanksgiving sacrifices. A fee as high as 10 or 12 percent was assessed for this exchange service. The business activity turns the house of prayer into a den of robbers. The goal of Jesus’ action is to restore the temple (temporarily) to its function, namely, to serve as a house of prayer for all the nations. The Jewish leaders correctly saw Jesus’ act as a challenge to their authority in the most sacred space in the world.
Mark 11:20-25 In the morning, they passed the fig tree, but it was now withered to its roots. Peter remembered that Jesus spoke to the the tree the morning before and pointed it out to His attention. Jesus said to have faith in God, for one can do anything if they have faith in God and does not doubt. Jesus said to ask things of the Father through prayer, and if you believe, you will receive it. If you expect God to hear your prayers, make sure you have forgiven those who have wronged you before expecting God to forgive you and answer your prayers.
Notes: What does faith have to do with the cursing of the fig tree? His point is that they should trust God to remove whatever hinders them from bearing fruit for God. God delights to “give good things to those who ask him” and is capable of granting any prayer, though we must ask with godly motives and according to God’s will.
Mark 11:26-33 When they again entered the temple, the chief priests, scribes, and elders challenged him by asking what authority He was doing the things He did, and who gave Him the authority to do them. Jesus responded with a question. He asked them if the baptism that John performed was man-made or was it ordained by God. They discussed among themselves how to answer the question. “If we say ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man’?” - they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. So they told Jesus they did not know. Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Notes: The official leaders of Israel: They question Jesus about His authority, because Jesus is neither an official priest nor a scribal authority according to the official standards. Their confession of ignorance, however, demonstrates that they have no basis on which to assess Jesus’ ministry. If they do not know whether John the Baptist was from God, they cannot know whether Jesus is, either. Faced with such hostility, Jesus refuses to answer his opponents’ question and exposes their ignorance and lack of sincerity.