Mark 11

From Bethphage/Bethany, Jesus sends two disciples to get a donkey colt, secured only by the bond of God. Spreading both cloaks and branches cut from the fields, the people both ahead and behind chant “Save!” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, goes to the temple, looks around, and returns to Bethany.

Returning to Jerusalem the next day, Jesus goes to a leafy fig tree to see if it has fruit, even though it isn’t the season. He curses the fig tree, which withers over the course of the day “from the roots.” Later that day, Peter will remark on the effect of the curse, and Jesus will promise the disciples that with faith, they can order a mountain to cast itself in the sea or, indeed, ask for anything with certainty that their desire will be fulfilled. He will add that when they pray, they should also pray to forgive their enemies so that God will forgive them.

At any rate, Jesus arrives in Jerusalem and drove out those who were buying and selling, overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those who were selling sacrificial doves, and prevented the flow of merchandise into the temple. He quotes from Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11, telling those he was teaching that they have turned the Lord’s house of prayer into a den of robbers. The crowd is amazed, so the chief priests and the teachers of the law become afraid and start plotting how to kill Jesus. And then he and the disciples return to where they are staying.

They come back a third day, and this time Jesus is challenged by the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders: “By what authority are you doing these things?” and “who gave you authority?” Jesus only offers to answer the first question in exchange for an answer by the chief priests, teachers of the law, and the elders as to where John the Baptist’s baptism came from, from heaven or human sources. This proves to be a knotty political problem, because of John the Baptist’s popularity. So Jesus refuses to tell them where His authority comes from.
Notes
1.  “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” comes from Psalm 118: 25-6
2.  Riding on a donkey signified both peace and a king. (see Zechariah 9:9; also, see David’s escape from Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 16:1-2)
3.  Matthew Henry points out that the colt was borrowed, and that Jesus continually borrowed to go about His work. He also says that a colt, completely untrained in serving as a beast of burden, would have disrupted any sense of solemnity.
4.  Matthew Henry says that cloaks were spread for the Feast of the Tabernacles.
5.  Bethphage and Bethany do not appear in the Old Testament. The word “Beth” means “house of” Bethphage is “the house of the unripe figs” and Bethany means “house of dates” or “house of misery.”   But only Mark and Luke mention Bethphage in addition to Bethany. John and Matthew mention only Bethany. One possible numerological point is that “Beth” is also the second letter in the Aramaic and Hebrew alphabets. So, Mark describes Jesus’s temporary abode in the form of two twos.
6.  The Mt of Olives is where David escaped after Absalom usurped his throne
7.  The fig tree stands as a symbol for Jerusalem. Jesus, finding Jerusalem spiritually barren, will become a curse for it by allowing Himself to be crucified (see Deut. 21:22-23).
 

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