The eleventh chapter of Mark’s gospel. In the tenth chapter, the last part of it, we left Jesus as He was passing through Jericho, coming from the area of what they call Trans-Jordan, the other side of the Jordan river. He is making His way to Jerusalem in order to be crucified. He knows exactly what is facing Him and He is on His way now to Jerusalem. So the eleventh chapter picks up right after leaving the area of Jericho, coming up the road towards Jerusalem, about eighteen miles or so, from Jericho to the edge of Bethphage and Bethany.
So when they came near to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and to Bethany (11:1),
Bethphage is the house of pigs, Bethany is the house of dates.
at the mount of Olives, he sent forth two of his disciples, And he said unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as you have entered into it, you’re going to find a colt that is tied, whereon never a man sat; loose him, and bring him. And if any man say unto you, Why do you do this? [or what are you doing?] say that the Lord has need of him; and immediately he will send him hither. And so they went their way, and they found the colt tied by the door without the place where the two ways met; and they loosed him. And certain of them that were standing there said unto them, What are you doing, loosing the colt? And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him. And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strowed them in the way. And they went before, and they that followed, and they cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest. And Jesus entered in Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all these things, and now it was eventide, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve (11:1-11).
Bethany is on the mount of Olives but it is on the slope toward the Judaean wilderness. Actually it doesn’t face Jerusalem but does face out towards the Judaean wilderness. But it is there on the side of the mount of Olives. And as Jesus is coming, He instructs His disciples concerning this colt that is tied and again, demonstrating His supernatural knowledge, telling them of the circumstances of the loosing of the colt and bringing it to Jesus.
We do remember that up until this point, Jesus has avoided public recognition of Himself as the Messiah. Whenever a movement would start towards acclaiming Him as the Messiah, He would quash that movement, either by just leaving the midst of them or by saying difficult things that would cause them to just sort of scratch their heads and walk away. On many of the special miraculous works that He did, He told the people just go your way and don’t tell anybody. Keep it quiet. For He was seeking to discourage any premature movement towards presenting Him to the nation as the Messiah. And that was very important because in God’s timing, God had set a day for the coming of the Messiah to Israel. And He had to come right on God’s appointed day. Any premature attempt to acclaim Him as Messiah would have been wrong.
But now this day is different. For this is the day that God had promised to the nation and the prophet Zechariah had spoken of this day in very clear terms as he declared, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, the King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon a donkey, upon a colt the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). Because it was prophesied that the Messiah would come riding in on a donkey, Jesus instructed the disciples where to find the donkey, to bring him, untie him and bring him to Me. And when they challenge you, just tell them the Lord needs him. And they will let you bring it. And so He is deliberately setting the stage to enter the Jerusalem, even as was prophesied by Zechariah to enter it riding on a donkey. This is to resolve all of the doubts that they may have had concerning His claim as the Messiah. They had earlier said, Tell us plainly. This will resolve their doubts. This will be the fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah. The disciples picked up on the significance and thus, they began to quote the 118th Psalm which is one of the Messianic psalms that deals with this day. As you pick up in verse twenty-two of Psalm 118, “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.” We know that is a prophecy concerning Jesus. He was to be refused by the builders, by the leaders of the nation, and yet He is to become the head stone of the corner. “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes,” and then, “This is the day that the Lord has made;” [the day that the stone will be refused, the King who will come in the name of the Lord will be rejected], “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:23,24). “Rejoice O Jerusalem, shout for joy ye daughters of Zion, behold your King cometh.”
The word “save now,” verse twenty-nine, in the Hebrew that is Hosanna. It is not translated in the New Testament but just given in the Hebrew as they began to quote this psalm, “Hosanna or save now, [that’s what Hosanna means] I beseech thee, O Lord: O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord: we have blessed you out of the house of the Lord. God is the Lord, which has showed us the light: [and then it’s interesting, He goes on to say] bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar” (Psalm 118:25-27). And talking about the sacrifice which Jesus was to accomplish before this week is over. “This is the day which the Lord has made.” In Daniel chapter nine, as the angel Gabriel instructed Daniel concerning the future of the nation of Israel and of the holy city of Jerusalem, he declared to Daniel that there were “Seventy sevens that were determined upon your people and upon the holy city, [verse twenty-four] to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity” (Daniel 9:24). Now that’s exactly the purpose of Jesus in coming is to make the reconciliation for iniquity, to make an end of sins, to complete the transgression, finish the transgression. “And to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecies, and to anoint the most Holy. [And then He said,] Know therefore and understand, from the time the commandment goes forth to restore and rebuild Jerusalem will be seven sevens, and sixty-two sevens: and the walls shall be built again, even in troublous times. But after the sixty-two sevens shall the Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: [or not received for himself] and the people of the prince that shall come will destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof will be with a dispersion, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined” (Daniel 9:24-26).
From the time the commandment goes forth to restore and rebuild Jerusalem unto the coming of the Messiah the prince, there would be sixty-nine sevens or 483 years. The commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem was given by King Artaxerxes to Nehemiah on the fourteenth of March, 445 B.C. and exactly to the day, a hundred and seventy-three thousand eight hundred and eighty days after the commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, Jesus made this entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, even as the psalmist indicated, “Save now,” but then “bind the sacrifice with cords unto the altar” even as Daniel prophesied, “But the Messiah will be cut off.” So Jesus was not accepted as the Messiah but was refused by the builders. But God has made Him the chief cornerstone. So, so much prophesy is tied up in this particular day, “This is the day that the Lord has made.” And Jesus, notice very carefully, sets the events of the day in order that there might be the complete fulfillment of the prophecies concerning this day.
Now it was evening, they were coming in to Bethany, Bethphage during the probably morning hours, they prepared the little donkey, Jesus descended. Mark doesn’t tell us anything about His weeping over Jerusalem, but He descended the mount of Olives riding the little donkey amidst the shouts of the disciples, “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” The other gospels tell us that the Pharisees said to Jesus, Rebuke your disciples, that’s blasphemous; and Jesus responded, I tell you the truth, if they would hold their peace, these very stones would cry out (Luke 19:39-40). I picked up a few stones along that path and I wondered if they happened to be there when Jesus came by. And had they been there, and had the disciples held their peace, these would have been the stones that would have been crying out.
Chesterston has written I think he called it an Ode to the Donkey, and it goes something like this:
When fishes flew and forest walked and figs grew upon a thorn, some moment when the moon was blood, then surely I was born. With monstrous head and sickening cry and ears like errant wings, the devil’s walking parody of all four-footed things. The ancient outlaw of the earth was stubborn, tattered will, mock me, scourge me, I am dumb but I hold my secret still. Fools, I also had my hour, one far swift hour in sweep. I heard the shouts about my ears and there were palm branches under my feet. Jesus, King of kings, lowly, making His entry on a donkey. How unlike the earthly potentates. I can imagine that the Romans who were there, who had perhaps seen the triumphant marches into Rome, when the Roman legions would come back with the trophies of war. I imagine there was just sort of snickering, as they saw this motley crowd and this man sitting on a donkey, entering the city. Surely He was no threat to Rome. But He was a tremendous threat to the religious leaders.
Now this is on Sunday. On Monday, verse twelve, Jesus returned to the temple.
And on the morrow, [Monday] when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if by chance he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet (11:12,13).
Of course, this is Passover time. It’s the month of April and it really isn’t the time for figs yet. It is interesting concerning a fig tree though that the little figs usually come out before the leaves. You’ll find little figs upon the tree before the leaves come out. And there is what they call the first ripe figs and the first ripe figs are the tastiest of the figs. If you have a fig tree that has its first ripe figs, they’re usually larger, tastier. The fig tree doesn’t really bear its fruit until about August, September. But the first ripe figs are usually ripe sometime in the end of May, first of June here in the States. But over there they have a little earlier season as a general rule, it could be possible that there would be some fruit on it, not very edible at this point.
I think that the cursing of the tree is so out of character with Jesus that we have to look at it as being, though it was literal, I’m not saying that it was just a symbolic thing, He literally cursed the tree and the tree literally died overnight. But yet I think that the cursing of it was a symbolic action in which He was talking about the nation or illustrating the condition of the nation of Israel which was failing to bring forth the fruit that God desired. And because of its failure to bring forth fruit unto the Lord, the nation was to wither and die.
The fig tree is used in a typological sense for the nation of Israel a couple of times in the Old Testament. At the destruction of Jerusalem, God lamented they have barked my fig tree. And in Jeremiah, the basket of rotten figs, irrecoverably rotten, to be thrown out. In another parable concerning a tree that did not bear fruit, the Lord said that the Master ordered the tree cut down but the caretaker said, Give me one more year, let me cultivate around it. let me fertilize it and see if I can’t produce some fruit next year. And so God’s longsuffering and God’s patience with the nation of Israel, waiting for it to bring forth fruit. But its failure bringing then the curse, the withering and the dying of the nation.
So I see this action of Jesus as a symbolic action to teach the disciples the important lesson of bringing forth fruit. In the Old Testament when Isaiah lamented for God concerning the vineyard in which God planted and it came time to gather the fruit, but there was nothing but wild grapes, so the vineyard was let go. Again, a type of the nation of Israel where God is seeking fruit and finding none, deserts it. That should speak to us, for Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches” (John 15:5). And He indicated that it is God’s desire and God’s purpose that our lives bring forth fruit unto the Lord. As a church we are to bring forth fruit and Paul tells us, “the fruit of the Spirit is love” (Galatians 5:22).
It is interesting that when Jesus addressed the churches in the book of Revelation, His complaint against the church of Ephesus was not its lack of works. It had plenty of that. But it was their lack of love. And His threat to them was that if they did not come back to this first love, His presence would be removed from the church. He wouldn’t stay around a loveless church. And what a warning and what a lesson that should be to us. Oh God, may Your love ever flow forth from this church, from this place. When people enter in, Lord, may they always have that sense of love, Your love flowing forth from us. And Lord, when You come and dwell among Your people, may You find the fruit that You are looking for, as You come to Your garden to enjoy. Lord, may our lives be fruitful. Bring forth fruit. And so the fig tree was cursed.
And Jesus said unto it, No man eat fruit of you hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it (11:14).
I wonder that they thought, that’s a little weird talking to a tree. And so here on Monday still,
they came into Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and he began to cast out those that sold and bought in the temple, He overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And he would not allow that any man should carry any vessel through the temple (11:14-16).
The temple had become almost a marketplace. The people there hawking the sacrificial animals. The moneychangers, and people passing through carrying their stuff, taking a short cut through the temple. When you brought a sacrifice, it could not have any blemish or it would be rejected. You weren’t to offer to God anything with blemishes, only that which was perfect. And so when a person would bring a lamb or a dove or a sacrifice, the priest would always examine it to make sure it had no imperfections. And if you did not have the little certified-by-the-rabbi stickers, then they would look until they could find some imperfection and they would reject it and force you to pay these inflated prices for these certified sacrifices. And thus the people were being gouged when they are wanting to come and bring a sacrifice to God. It was an extortion kind of a thing. And here Jesus is angry, and He drives them out.
You could only give to God temple shekels. They considered the Roman currency as unclean and you could not give it to God but you had to only give Him temple shekels. And that’s the reason for the moneychangers. They were there to take your Roman coins and to give you the temple shekels in exchange, with a twenty percent exchange fee. So again, racketeering, profiting off of people’s desire to worship God. This innate desire within man to worship God, they had found ways to capitalize on it, merchandise it. And Jesus in casting them out quoted Isaiah 56:7,
And He said unto them, Isn’t it written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? [And then quoting Jeremiah 7:11, He said] but you have made it a den of thieves (11:17).
God’s house should be a house of prayer. They made it a den of thieves, profiteering.
And the scribes and the chief priests heard him, and they sought how they might destroy him: but they feared the people, because the people were astonished at his doctrine. And when the even was come, he went out of the city (11:18,19).
So on Sunday He made His triumphant entry. On Monday He goes in and He cleanses the temple of the merchandising and of the desecration.
Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance said unto him, Master, look, the fig tree which you cursed it’s withered away (11:20,21).
Amazed that so quickly was that tree withered. And how quickly the nation of Israel is to be withered.
And Jesus answering said unto them, Have faith in God (11:22).
So He uses this as an example to teach them of the potential and the power of faith.
For verily [He said] 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 (11:23).
There are those who say that Jesus is not making a reference to literal mountains, that the rabbis often referred to difficulties that a person experienced in life as the mountains of difficulty. It doesn’t really matter, the principle is there. The principle of faith. And then Jesus went on to say,
Therefore I say unto you, What things soever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them (11:24).
Remember first of all who Jesus is talking to. Because there are those who have taken this passage of scripture and rested it as an excuse for indulging your flesh and your desires that you can have anything you want. And they usually interpret that or translate that into gold chains around your neck and big diamonds on your fingers and fancy sports cars and a home on Lido island. And they have made a sad travesty of this promise of Jesus. As I said, first of all note who Jesus is talking to. Talking to Peter and to the disciples who are amazed that the fig tree withered so fast. What did it take to become a disciple? Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself,” very first requirement. Those that take this as a promise to indulge yourself are taking it completely wrong. This isn’t saying that you can just indulge yourself in any kind of a luxury you want if you just believe. Put the principle of faith into operation and say it, the rhema, power of the spoken word. And be careful what you say, don’t say anything negative because you’ll have whatever you say and if you’re making negative confessions then dire things will happen to you. It’ll come to pass, your words have creative force and power. And all of this is malarkey.
There’s a vast difference, as we all know, between men and women. Now there’s some people that don’t know that but we know that, a vast difference. And a woman moves on a much broader spectrum than a man. Man is coarse, he moves on a narrow spectrum. We can’t get very excited and we can’t get very sad, just sort of right in there. But a woman capable of much higher highs and actually capable of deeper lows. So I might go into a room and say, It’s cold in here. My wife goes in and says I’m freezing to death. I’m glad she doesn’t have what she says. I might say I’m hungry, she says I’m starving to death. They shall have whatsoever they say. Negative confessions, look out. No, that’s taking things totally out and away from context. Jesus isn’t giving you a blank check and saying, Fill it in, indulge yourself. Go out and indulge your lust, whatever you desire.
No, He’s talking to His disciples who have denied themselves to take up the cross and follow Him. He is the example and we’re following Him. So that our desires then are really His desires because we have submitted to Him as Lord. And I do not and should not desire anything apart from His desires. So if you will stamp over the top of it, put the stamp, deny self, take up the cross and follow Me, then you see the promise in its proper perspective. This promise is made to men who have denied themselves, who have taken up the cross to follow Jesus. And to those people this is a glorious promise. You can see the will of God and you can see the work of God wrought in your heart, in your life, in the lives of those around you because you have made this total commitment unto Him as Lord.
When you stand praying (11:25),
Some people kneel praying, some people lie down praying. Surely it isn’t the position of the body that matters, it’s the position of the heart. “When you stand praying,”
forgive, if you have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses (11:25).
Your forgiveness, Jesus is teaching, opens the door for the Father to forgive you. That’s how important it is for you to forgive. It opens the door for God to forgive you. So when you stand praying, if there comes into your mind one that you have ought against, forgive them, that your Father might forgive you. As a general rule when we stand praying, we’re there seeking forgiveness. And so the importance of forgiving. And then Jesus stresses it,
But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses (11:26).
That’s how important it is. You say well then does that make salvation a thing of works? I don’t know, but all I know is that you better forgive. I don’t want to diminish or modify the words of Jesus. I don’t know how that lines up with God’s grace and salvation. But all I know is that this is the teaching of Jesus plain and simple and I don’t want to be guilty of taking away from it. I would never want to be guilty of comforting someone who is not obeying the word of Christ. And giving them false comfort and false hope. This is what Jesus has said. It’s serious. It’s important that you forgive. It opens the door for God to forgive you. “And if you don’t forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” That is heavy but that’s just how important it is.
This isn’t the only time that Jesus has said this. In Matthew’s gospel chapter six, as Jesus is speaking about our righteousness, how it should be done before the Lord, and when you pray, just go on into the closet and shut the door and so forth. And then He said, this is the manner therefore in which you should pray: “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” (Matthew 6:9-13). And then Jesus said, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14,15). Now that’s very straight, plain teaching. And Jesus then gave illustrations to illustrate what He meant.
There was a certain king, who was taking an account of his affairs. He found a servant, owed him sixteen million dollars. And he called him in and demanded payment. And he said, I can’t pay you. And he said, Throw him into prison. The servant began to cry and begged him saying, Please, give me a little time and I will try to pay you. And so he forgave the servant that enormous debt. He in turn though, that servant went out and got a fellow servant that owed him sixteen dollars, grabbed him by the throat and said, You pay me. And when he was unable to do so, he had him thrown into the debtors’ prison. And the other servants when they saw it felt bad and they reported to the king. You remember that fellow you forgave the sixteen million bucks, he had a fellow servant thrown in jail just the other day for sixteen dollar debt. And so the king called him in, and he said, You wicked servant, didn’t I forgive you a great debt? How is it that I hear you’ve had a fellow servant thrown into prison for a small debt to you? And he ordered him thrown into prison until the entire debt was paid. And the whole idea is, look how much God has forgiven you. We need to be forgiving.
How often shall I forgive my brother the same offense? Seven times? No, Peter. Seventy times seven. It’s not a thing of mathematics. It’s just a spirit of forgiveness that we’re to have. Now as we pointed out this morning, to hold on to an unforgiving spirit, to hold on to these offenses, to remain bitter, angry, resentful is damaging to you. Not just spiritually as Jesus points out, it doesn’t just shut off the forgiveness from you, but it is damaging to you emotionally. Those attitudes, that spirit of anger and just uptightness creates bad chemistry which is destructive to your body and to you mentally. So emotionally, physically, spiritually, so important to forgive.
And so they came again to Jerusalem: and as he was walking in the temple (11:27),
this is on Wednesday now. No, this will be Tuesday, Monday He cleansed it, He comes back Tuesday, the fig tree is withered and all, this happens Tuesday.
there came to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders (11:27),
I believe Wednesday was when He had the Passover supper with the disciples, Wednesday night, and Thursday crucified. We’ll get to that later, you say, what? Good Friday, try and get three days and three nights between Good Friday and Sunday morning and you got some problems. So He had come again to Jerusalem and as He was walking in the temple, there came to Him the chief priests, scribes and elders. Here comes this whole religious body, these are the guys that, you’ve intruded into our territory.
And say unto him, By what authority do you do these things? and who gave you the authority to do them (11:28)?
These fellows were always looking for the authority. When John the Baptist was baptizing and the people were coming, they came out to John and they said, Who gave you the authority to baptize? When I met with one of the leaders of the Mormon church, that was his question. Who gives these young men the authority to go out there and minister in these churches? Who gave Raul Reis the authority to hold a meeting over here in San Gabriel? Who ordained him? I told him God ordains. God is the one that gave the authority. Jesus is the one that gave the command to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. The authority comes from God. Now, they’re asking Jesus, “Who gave you the authority?”
And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will ask you one question, answer me my question, and [I’ll answer yours] I’ll tell you by what authority I do these things. [My question is] The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or was it from men? answer me. And they got to reasoning among themselves, and they said, If we say, From heaven; then he’s going to say, Why didn’t you then believe him? If we say, his baptism was of men; then all the people will be upset with us because they think John was a prophet. Well, they said, We can’t answer your question. He said, Alright, neither do I answer yours (11:29-33).
So He silenced them.
Father, we thank You for Your word. And Lord, this issue of prayer and forgiveness, help us, help us just now Lord and free us Lord from any ought that we might be holding against anybody for anything. May we not hang on to that bitterness any longer, but Lord set us free that we might bring forth fruit Lord, the fruit of love, kindness, tenderheartedness, as we forgive one another, even as You Lord, for Christ’s sake, forgave us. O God ferret out any resentment that we might hold. As David we would ask You Lord to search us and to know our hearts. Try us Lord and know our thoughts, and see if there is anything there Lord, any root of bitterness, any anger that would keep back our experiencing the full work of Your love and forgiveness in our lives. O Lord set Your people free, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Edited & Highlighted from “The Word For Today” Transcription, Pastor Chuck Smith, Tape #8039