Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem. (1-11) The barren fig-tree cursed, The temple cleansed. (12-18) Prayer in faith. (19-26) The priests and elders questioned concerning John the Baptist. (27-33)
Verses 1-11 Christ's coming into Jerusalem thus remarkably, shows that he was not afraid of the power and malice of his enemies. This would encourage his disciples who were full of fear. Also, that he was not disquieted at the thoughts of his approaching sufferings. But all marked his humiliation; and these matters teach us not to mind high things, but to condescend to those of low estate. How ill it becomes Christians to take state, when Christ was so far from claiming it! They welcomed his person; Blessed is he that cometh, the "He that should come," so often promised, so long expected; he comes in the name of the Lord. Let him have our best affections; he is a blessed Saviour, and brings blessings to us, and blessed be He that sent him. Praises be to our God, who is in the highest heavens, over all, God blessed for ever.
Verses 12-18 Christ looked to find some fruit, for the time of gathering figs, though it was near, was not yet come; but he found none. He made this fig-tree an example, not to the trees, but to the men of that generation. It was a figure of the doom upon the Jewish church, to which he came seeking fruit, but found none. Christ went to the temple, and began to reform the abuses in its courts, to show that when the Redeemer came to Zion, it was to turn away ungodliness from Jacob. The scribes and the chief priests sought, not how they might make their peace with him, but how they might destroy him. A desperate attempt, which they could not but fear was fighting against God.
Verses 19-26 The disciples could not think why that fig-tree should so soon wither away; but all wither who reject Christ; it represented the state of the Jewish church. We should rest in no religion that does not make us fruitful in good works. Christ taught them from hence to pray in faith. It may be applied to that mighty faith with which all true Christians are endued, and which does wonders in spiritual things. It justifies us, and so removes mountains of guilt, never to rise up in judgment against us. It purifies the heart, and so removes mountains of corruption, and makes them plain before the grace of God. One great errand to the throne of grace is to pray for the pardon of our sins; and care about this ought to be our daily concern.
Verses 27-33 Our Saviour shows how near akin his doctrine and baptism were to those of John; they had the same design and tendency, to bring in the gospel kingdom. These elders did not deserve to be taught; for it was plain that they contended not for truth, but victory: nor did he need to tell them; for the works he did, told them plainly he had authority from God; since no man could do the miracles which he did, unless God were with him.
Mark 11:1-11 . CHRIST'S TRIUMPHAL ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM, ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK. ( = Matthew 21:1-9 Luke 19:29-40 John 12:12 John 12:19 ).
Mark 11:11-26 . THE BARREN FIG TREE CURSED WITH LESSONS FROM IT--SECOND CLEANSING OF THE TEMPLE, ON THE SECOND AND THIRD DAYS OF THE WEEK. ( = Matthew 21:12-22 Luke 19:45-48 ).
11. And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon--surveyed.
all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out into Bethany with the twelve--Thus briefly does our Evangelist dispose of this His first day in Jerusalem, after the triumphal entry. Nor do the Third and Fourth Gospels give us more light. But from Matthew ( Matthew 21:10 Matthew 21:11 Matthew 21:14-16 ) we learn some additional and precious particulars, for which sleep in the city, nor, from the day of His Triumphal Entry, did He pass one night in it, save the last fatal one.
The Barren Fig Tree Cursed ( Mark 11:12-14 ).
12. And on the morrow--The Triumphal Entry being on the first day of the week, this following day was Monday.
when they were come from Bethany--"in the morning" ( Matthew 21:18 ).
he was hungry--How was that? Had he stolen forth from that dear roof at Bethany to the "mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God?" ( Luke 6:12 ); or, "in the morning," as on a former occasion, "risen up a great while before day, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed" ( Mark 1:35 ); not breaking His fast thereafter, but bending His steps straight for the city, that He might "work the works of Him that sent Him while it was day?" ( John 9:4 ). We know not, though one lingers upon and loves to trace out the every movement of that life of wonders. One thing, however we are sure of--it was real bodily hunger which He now sought to allay by the fruit of this fig tree, "if haply He might find any thing thereon"; not a mere scene for the purpose of teaching a lesson, as some early heretics maintained, and some still seem virtually to hold.
13. And seeing a fig tree--(In Matthew 21:19 , it is "one fig tree," but the sense is the same as here, "a certain fig tree," as in Matthew 8:19 , &c.). Bethphage, which adjoined Bethany, derives his name from its being a fig region--"House of figs."
afar off having leaves--and therefore promising fruit, which in the case of figs come before the leaves.
he came, if haply 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--What the precise import of this explanation is, interpreters are not agreed. Perhaps all that is meant is, that as the proper fig season had not arrived, no fruit would have been expected even of this tree but for the leaves which it had, which were in this case prematurely and unnaturally developed.
14. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever--That word did not make the tree barren, but sealed it up in its own barrenness.
And his disciples heard it--and marked the saying. This is introduced as a connecting link, to explain what was afterwards to be said on the subject, as the narrative has to proceed to the other transactions of this day.
Second Cleansing of the Temple ( Mark 11:15-18 ).
For the exposition of this portion,
Lessons from the Cursing of the Fig Tree ( Mark 11:20-26 ).
20. And in the morning--of Tuesday, the third day of the week: He had slept, as during all this week, at Bethany.
as they passed by--going into Jerusalem again.
they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots--no partial blight, leaving life in the root; but it was now dead, root and branch. In Matthew 21:19 it is said it withered away as soon as it was cursed. But the full blight had not appeared probably at once; and in the dusk perhaps, as they returned to Bethany, they had not observed it. The precision with which Mark distinguishes the days is not observed by Matthew, intent only on holding up the truths which the incident was designed to teach. In Matthew the whole is represented as taking place at once, just as the two stages of Jairus' daughter--dying and dead--are represented by him as one. The only difference is between a mere summary and a more detailed narrative, each of which only confirms the other.
21. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him--satisfied that a miracle so very peculiar--a miracle, not of blessing, as all His other miracles, but of cursing--could not have been wrought but with some higher reference, and fully expecting to hear something weighty on the subject.
Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away--so connecting the two things as to show that he traced the death of the tree entirely to the curse of his Lord. Matthew ( Matthew 21:20 ) gives this simply as a general exclamation of surprise by the disciples "how soon" the blight had taken effect.
22. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.
23. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed . . . he shall have whatsoever he saith--Here is the lesson now. From the nature of the case supposed--that they might wish a mountain removed and cast into the sea, a thing far removed from anything which they could be thought actually to desire--it is plain that not physical but moral obstacles to the progress of His kingdom were in the Redeemer's view, and that what He designed to teach was the great lesson, that no obstacle should be able to stand before a confiding faith in God.
24. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them--This verse only generalizes the assurance of Mark 11:23 ; which seems to show that it was designed for the special encouragement of evangelistic and missionary efforts, while this is a directory for prevailing prayer in general.
25. And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any; that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses, &c.--This is repeated from the Sermon on the Mount to remind them that if this was necessary to the acceptableness of all prayer, much more when great things were to be asked and confidently expected.
Mark 11:27-33 . THE AUTHORITY OF JESUS QUESTIONED--HIS REPLY. ( = Matthew 21:23-27 , Luke 20:1-8 ).